Collection Policies

Access to the collection is open to qualified visitors, researchers and students. 

A limited amount of funding is available for researchers to use the collections. The Museum of Comparative Zoology periodically awards Ernst Mayr Grants to systematists who need to make short museum visits in order to undertake research needed for the completion of taxonomic revisions and monographs.

General Loan Policy

Loans are made to a specific institution on behalf of a permanent staff member of that institution and will only be sent to an institutional address. Requests for loans must be submitted on institutional letterhead. Requests from students and postdoctoral fellows must be countersigned by the corresponding major professor or postdoctoral advisor, who assumes legal responsibility for the specimens. Requests may be sent as a PDF file attached to an email message sent to Stevie Kennedy-Gold, Herpetology Collection Manager.

Loan Requests

Loan requests for alcoholic and skeletal specimens should include the following:

  • Requestor’s full name, institutional title, postal address, email address and phone number.
  • When applicable: student’s or postdoctoral fellow’s full name, title, institutional affiliation, postal address, email address and phone number.
  • Research proposal, including a description of the specific techniques to be applied to the specimens and their justification.
  • If destructive sampling is involved (see “Destructive Sampling” below), please summarize previous work that demonstrates proficiency with the proposed techniques.
  • Itemized list of specimens and/or specimen parts being requested, each identified by MCZ catalog number and scientific name as found in MCZbase, the museum’s specimen database.

Loan Policies

Specimen Eligibility

Requests for the loan of type specimens (holotypes, paratypes, etc.) or fragile specimens, or for permission to dissect or otherwise alter specimens (see “Destructive Sampling” above) will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

No more than one-half of the total specimens of a species held at the MCZ will be loaned at one time. The remainder may be requested after return of the first loan.

Loan Details

Upon the loan’s arrival, the borrower should review the enclosed loan form for both inventory and specimen condition. Amend as necessary, sign and return a copy of the loan form to MCZ. Failure to return the form will jeopardize publication copyright and future loan requests.

Specimens are loaned for a period of six months. If the specimens are needed for longer than six months, the borrower must contact Stevie Kennedy-Gold, Herpetology Collection Manager, to request an extension of the loan period. Request for an extension must be made before the current loan period expires.

Care and Handling

  • Specimens are not to be used by any other person(s) or for any purpose other than what is outlined in the approved research proposal.
  • Do not remove any tags attached to a specimen.
  • Maintain alcoholic specimens in 70% ethanol. They should not be transferred to any other ethanol concentration or to any other liquid. Keep specimens moist during examination with 70% ethanol.
  • Do not force limbs, jaws, etc., into positions that tear muscles or break bones.


The MCZ ships loans via Federal Express or an equivalent domestic or international shipper, paying postage and insurance for outbound shipments. Borrowers should return loans via Federal Express, paying postage and insurance at their expense. Loans will only be sent to an institutional address.

Specimens should be packed carefully and securely for return with the same packing materials with which they were received unless those materials are damaged or otherwise deemed inappropriate to use.

Destructive Sampling

Destructive sampling refers to a variety of possible treatments that damage or otherwise permanently alter the state of a specimen. Examples include the removal of one or more parts of a specimen, such as a tissue sample, and internal dissection to determine gender.

If tissue samples are being requested, please complete the MCZ Genetic Sample Request form and email to Stevie Kennedy-Gold, Herpetology Collection Manager. If the request is approved, the tissue samples will be taken at MCZ by museum staff. The loan will then be processed by the museum’s Cryogenic Collection.

Cryogenic Samples

To request the loan of herpetological tissue held by MCZ’s Cryogenic Collection, complete the MCZ Genetic Sample Request form and email to Stevie Kennedy-Gold, Herpetology Collection Manager.

Genetic samples are identified in MCZbase as “tissue” or “DNA” in the Part Name field.

Copyright and Publications

Credit for use of MCZ material should be declared in resulting publications, preferably with a table that lists MCZ voucher numbers. Please send reprints to the Herpetology Department, which helps us track specimen use.

Permission to photograph, microCT scan, X-ray, or otherwise image loaned specimens must be included in the loan request. Please review the Permissions & Copyright Policy for more information. Copies of all images should be emailed to Stevie Kennedy-Gold, Herpetology Collection Manager; for additional information, please consult the guidelines for submitting digital media.