Zoological tissue collection policy

The zoological tissue collection of the Natural History Museum of Denmark consists of preserved tissues and tissue extracts of vertebrates and invertebrates. We encourage its use by the international, non-profit, research community. This document describes the procedures for obtaining tissues from the Natural History Museum.

Rationale of the Tissue Grant Policy

Tissue collections differ from traditional museum collections. Unlike most museum specimens, tissues are consumed by researchers. Thus, tissue "loans" are in fact grants of a limited resource. As a result, we treat tissue requests as we would grant applications, and our grant policy takes steps to prevent depletion of the collection.

Tissues are often expensive, difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes hazardous to collect. Tissue samples are the limiting resource in molecular studies, yet the importance and difficulty of collecting tissues (and specimens in general) is not widely acknowledged in the DNA laboratories and in the broader scientific community.

The Natural History Museum is interested in the fate of the tissues it grants. We keep careful records of how tissues are used. This information may be required to fulfill obligations to the country of specimen origin, and it is useful for grant proposals.

Tissue use may be governed by CITES rules: The Natural History Museum tissue collection operates in strict accordance with all relevant laws, rules, and regulations.

Tissue Grant Policy

Preference is given to researchers who also collect specimens themselves. The Natural History Museum will not provide the majority of tissues for a project; we expect researchers to collect most of their specimens.

Grantees must provide some evidence of reciprocal benefit to the Natural History Museum. Examples of reciprocal benefit include: cooperative research with a curator at the Natural History Museum yielding co-authored publications; tissues offered in exchange; access for Natural History Museum researchers to substantial tissue holdings; help organizing collecting expeditions; funding for collecting expeditions. Reciprocal benefit is usually assumed for any foreign researcher requesting tissues of organisms from his/her own country.

Preference is given to quality research. Quality is judged ad-hoc for each request by the curator in charge. The grantee must be a qualified researcher who is likely to publish the results of his research. DNA sequence data obtained from the samples must be made available to the research community (e.g. via GenBank) and accession numbers must be reported to the Natural History Museum as soon as they become available.

Grants will be denied to researchers who have not made good use of samples in the past or who have not fulfilled grant requirements.

Grants are given only to researchers who agree to the following requests or obligations:

  1. Grantees must return unused tissues. Tissues may not be given to third parties without the permission of the Natural History Museum.
  2. Grantees have to return the extract derived from granted samples (e.g., DNA), unless there is a formal agreement on donation or exchange. Extracts cannot be distributed to other researchers without our permission.
  3. The tissue samples are only be used for the purpose outlined in the initial grant proposal.
  4. Any deviation from the proposal needs approval from the Natural History Museum.
  5. No commercial use will be made of, nor license or patent applied for on the samples or any information or data derived from them without written consent from the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
  6. Grantees must acknowledge the "Tissue collection at the Natural History of Denmark" in all publications that use data generated from our samples. Publications should include sample number and collecting data.
  7. Grantees must send a reprint of any publication benefiting from a tissue grant. It would be helpful if the grantee emailed the publication citation to the Curator or Collection Manager.
  8. Grantees must bear costs associated with obtaining permits to transport Natural History Museum of Denmark tissue samples. A CITES Institutional permit is required to receive samples of CITES-listed Appendix I, II, or III taxa.
  9. Donated or exchanged tissues should be accompanied by either a museum invoice with accession numbers or copies of appropriate permits (e.g., a U.S. collecting permit or a country-of-origin export permit).
  10. Researchers are responsible for shipping costs of tissue samples that cannot be mailed as regular mail. This requirement includes most material returned or donated. Exceptions will be made, however, for large donations and special cases.

Procedures for Requesting Tissues

Grant proposals to the tissue collection proceed in two steps.

First, a list of specimens is requested from the curator in charge of the taxon in question. This request may be made by email, or regular mail.

Second, specific samples are requested in writing on letterhead from the curator in charge of the taxon. Graduate students should submit a letter co-signed by their advisor, who will assume responsibility for use of the samples. If the tissue grant is approved, the letter represents a contract between the researcher and the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

The proposal should provide the following information:

  1. A brief outline of the goals, methods, and time-frame of the project, justifying the use of the samples (less than 1 page).
  2. A curriculum vitae of the principal investigator.
  3. Evidence for sufficient lab facilities and funding.
  4. The expected number of tissues to be used in the project, in addition to the contribution from our collection. Please specify the approximate number of tissues that will be collected by the researcher and the number requested from other institutions.
  5. A statement of reciprocal benefit.
  6. A list of the Natural History Museum of Denmark specimens by name and number. Please specify the amount of tissue/extract required and the preferred method of delivery (e.g., on dry ice).
  7. A Federal Express (or comparable) charge number.
  8. Copies of permits (if required).