Loans and Use of the Collection

The Museum of Southwestern Biology, Division of Mammals can be utilized for research and educational purposes on a case-by-case basis. Before submitting an official request please do the following.


  • Read our Loans and Sampling Policy (below)
  • Know what you are requesting
    • If you are requesting specific specimens, you will be required to provide a specimen list, with MSB numbers.
    • If your request is more general, provide a longer list and outline your specimen selection criteria
    • In either case, use this specimen list as your template
    • Name the file as follows: LastName-YYYY-MM-DD-Specimen-List
    • Use the MSB database, Arctos, to find specimens. For help searching, visit the Arctos Handbook.
  • Have a request letter on institutional letterhead ready for upload
    • Name the file as follows: LastName-YYYY-MM-DD-Request-Letter
    • See our Loans and Sampling Policy for more information
  • Much of the information in the request letter will also be added to our request form. Have the information available for pasting into the form.
  • Everything will be submitted via the request form linked below; you do not need to submit the DGR Supplemental Loan Form.


  • Educators will be requested to provide information about their group, their objective, and the educational benefit 
  • If specific specimens are requested, please use this specimen list as your template
  • Name the file as follows: LastName-YYYY-MM-DD-Specimen-List
  • Use the MSB database, Arctos, to find specimens. For help searching, visit the Arctos Handbook.

Submit Request

MSB Mammals Specimen Use/Loan Request (Google account required)

Loans and Sampling Policy and Procedures

The Division of Mammals specimens are, first and foremost, research collections that are available to legitimate users from the national and international scientific community. Specimens may also be used for exhibit and educational purposes. Owing to their manner of preservation, specimens generally are not suitable for display in exhibits, but selected specimens may be used in teaching or as models for preparing illustrations for publication. The governing consideration in use of museum specimens is ensuring their long-term conservation.

The Division of Mammals provides loans of skins, skeletons, and fluid-preserved specimens from its collections for scientific research. Type specimens are not loaned. Researchers interested in tissues or destructive sampling should read those policies carefully before making a request.

  • Specimen loans are made only to faculty, curators, and permanent research staff at recognized institutions with facilities to properly house and care for specimens. Individuals who are not affiliated with such an institution may request a loan of material only if they have made prior arrangements with an appropriate institution for housing of specimens, and if that institution agrees in writing to receive the specimens on the researcher's behalf. Graduate students must request specimens through their major advisor.
  • Loans are generally made for a period of six months. Requests for loan extension must be made in writing prior to the expiration of the grant. Transfer of MSB specimens from one institution to another institution is seldom allowed and must be requested from the curator.
  • No more than half of our specimens of a taxon from one locality are loaned at the same time. In most cases, a request for a large number of specimens will be divided in half, with the second shipment sent after the first has been returned. Some shipments may be further divided depending on the size and condition of specimens requested. The requestor may stipulate groupings of specimens in partial shipments within the confines of this policy.
  • For foreign loans, the borrower also is responsible for providing copies of all required import and export permits. Loans to countries where commercial delivery services are unreliable will be granted only when specimens can be hand-carried in both directions.

Information on our holdings may be found by querying our electronic database, if further information is needed please contact the collection manager, Dr. Jon Dunnum via email.

Loan Requests

All requestors of specimen loans must submit their request using the form linked above. A letter of request on institutional letterhead addressed to the Curator of Mammals, Joseph Cook is required. Requests from students must be co-signed by their faculty advisor. Requests for loans should contain the following:

  • A cover letter outlining the request, signed by both faculty borrower and student researcher
  • A summary paragraph of the research, including other sources of material, and a justification for specimens from the MSB collections. This statement should specifically address the following:
    1. Objectives of the project, hypotheses, and potential scientific value
    2. Feasibility and time frame of the study
    3. Method(s) of analysis
    4. Qualifications of the investigator(s) to perform the laboratory work and preliminary results
    5. Availability and source of funding to complete the project
  • A list with information on the nature of material needed:
    1. Specific specimens requested with their MSB catalog numbers.
    2. If specific specimens are not needed, the number of specimens from a given taxon and associated geographic location
    3. Exact nature of material (i.e. skin, skull, postcranial skeleton, etc.) needed

Review of Requests

Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by an ad hoc review team according to the following criteria:

  • The material requested, including whether it duplicates previous efforts
  • Availability of alternative materials from other collections, wild, or captive sources, and efforts by the requestor (investigator) to obtain such material
  • Amount of material in the MSB collections
  • Rarity and replaceability of the samples (i.e., distribution and abundance of the taxon relative to the location of the user)—note, historic specimens cannot be replaced
  • Demonstrated ability of the investigator(s) to perform the work and complete the project (including preliminary dat and the anticipated publication/impact)
  • Source and amount of financial support for the project

Federal Express is the preferred carrier. Should the loan be approved, the requestor's provided FedEx account number will be used to cover shipping costs.

Upon Receipt of Loan

  • The borrower must contact the Division of Mammals Collection Manager and Curator via email to acknowledge safe receipt of the specimens. 
  • Immediately check the number and condition of specimens, noting any discrepancies or damage incurred during transit on appropriate copy of loan invoice. Specimen damage that occurs during transit should be reported immediately via email or phone. Sign and return one digitized (pdf) copy of the loan invoice to the DOM Curator and Collection Manager via email. The borrower is liable for damage that occurs while the specimens are in their possession or upon return.
  • All skins and skeletal material must be safely stored in cases and protected against light, insects, dust, and excessive moisture. Wet specimens are to be stored in 70% ethanol and away from light.
  • Some specimens that pre-date 1970 may have been treated with arsenic. Therefore, all users are advised to take proper precautions when handling specimens.
  • Invasive procedures are not permitted without explicit written permission. Removal of hair or skin samples for molecular analyses are considered invasive procedures and written permission must be obtained in advance (see policies for destructive sampling and tissue/DNA loans).
  • If required, please use freezing at -20 °C for pest management treatments.

Return of Loan

  • At the time of return please email the Collection Manager with the date of shipment and a tracking number.
  • Return the loan in the same box(es) in which it was received and via the same carrier.
  • Specimens must be packed in such a manner as to protect them from shock, moisture, or excessive heat. Skins should be wrapped in material similar to that used in shipment to borrower.
  • Use only toilet paper or similar soft paper as packing for skulls. Do not use cotton batting or polyester packing in contact with skulls.
  • Place address labels on inside as well as outside of package.
  • Shipment must be insured for the same value indicated on the original loan invoice.
Dr. Jon Dunnum
Division of Mammals
Museum of Southwestern Biology
CERIA Bldg. 83, Room 204
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

In the case of re-identification of specimens, new designations should be provided to our curatorial staff when specimens are returned to the Museum. These data can be provided on a copy of the original loan invoice, or in a separate list that contains the MSB catalog numbers and respective new identifications (either in text or spreadsheet format).

Destructive Sampling Request Policy

Researchers may request samples of skin, hair, feathers, toe pads, or bone from our archived specimens for DNA, isotope, or other analyses. However, because these collections are historic and finite resources, one of our primary responsibilities is to protect the MSB holdings to insure that they are available for use by future generations of researchers. These are the only physical records of these species.

Requests for destructive sampling of museum specimens should follow the same general guidelines as for tissues. While we do approve such requests, they are evaluated stringently.

As the number of destructive sampling requests has grown, it has become necessary to implement the following guidelines regarding destructive use of museum specimens:

  • Requests for destructive sampling will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Curator.
  • Requests for destructive sampling must contain compelling reasons why the project cannot be completed without the use of museum specimens. This includes evidence that the research question being addressed is feasible, explicitly historical, and requires the use of museum specimens, or that the taxa of interest cannot be sampled directly from the field.
  • Requests for destructive sampling should provide evidence that the investigators have experience with associated analytical procedures (e.g., PCR amplification and sequencing of DNA from museum skins), and that the proposed studies are likely to generate usable data.
  • If permission is granted to remove specimen parts (e.g., skin clips, reproductive organs, stomach contents), those parts must be labeled with the MSB catalogue number by the researcher and returned with the specimens. Any slide preparations (e.g., SEM stubs, histological, karyological), are to be returned properly labeled.
  • The actual destructive sampling will normally be performed by Division staff at MSB unless other arrangements have been formally made.

We emphasize that destructive samples are intended to supplement research materials obtained from other sources, not replace primary data collection efforts such as field sampling of extant taxa. While we strongly encourage collections-based research, our obligation to protect the MSB’s holdings may require that some requests for destructive samples be denied.

Reciprocity Criteria for Destructive Sampling of Mammal Tissues

Reciprocity Criteria: We require borrowers to adhere to one of the four criteria listed below. Please select which of the following best meets your interaction with the MSB.

Specific Destructive Loan Requirements: The borrower must demonstrate equal reciprocity relative to the Destructive Loan request. 

The borrower can meet this stipulation by completing any of the following:

  1. Deposit research material (specimens, tissues, etc.) deemed of equal scientific value in an accessible museum collection. Deposition of specimens in a museum not accredited by an appropriate scientific society (e.g., American Society of Mammalogists) must meet the approval of the Curator of Mammals, MSB.
  2. Provide research material (of equal value) to MSB for material borrowed from MSB collections. These may include vouchered samples for permanent disposition in MSB or loans of tissues to our university researchers.
  3. Provide funding towards MSB fieldwork to replace material associated with the Destructive Loan.
  4. For Destructive Loans, applicants who cannot fulfill one of A-C, above, may be charged a replacement and service fee to help defray the cost of acquiring and maintaining the collection, as well as the handling, subsampling, and packaging of the loan. This fee will range from $50 to $200 per sample and will be determined on a case-by-case basis to be commensurate with the rarity of the specimen and the extent of the services provided. Replacement cost is conservative and based on older estimates (Bradley et al. 2012; and Baker et al. 2014) for the cost of collecting, preparing, curating, cataloging, and maintaining mammal specimens. We encourage all researchers to include reimbursement costs for such Destructive Loan service fees when preparing research grant proposals. 

Use of Photographs, Field Notes, and Correspondence

  • Photographs (including photographs of specimens), field notebook pages, correspondence, and other archival materials may not be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed or otherwise used, in whole or in part, without written permission from the MSB. No materials may be used for commercial or financial gain.
  • When permission is given, materials may be used, downloaded, reproduced, publicly displayed, distributed, or reprinted by persons affiliated with academic and/or non-profit organizations for scientific and scholarly purposes only, provided that the following attribution appears in all published use: "With the permission of The Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico."
  • Use of photographs or other Division materials on personal or academic web sites must be authorized by the Museum. Images must be credited to the “MSB, University of New Mexico.”
  • Publication permission is given for ONE TIME USE only.
  • Physical copies of MSB, Division of Mammals written materials and photographs are charged at cost. There is no charge for the use of online/electronic materials.

For further information or to submit a request, contact the Curator or Collection Manager.

Specimens Examined / Acknowledging MSB

Specimens used in publications, reports, or presentations should be included in a "Specimens Examined" section and listed in the following format “MSB:Mamm:123456”.

The Museum should be acknowledged in any publications that result from the use of its specimens. Acknowledgement should be given as "Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico." A PDF electronic copy should be sent to the Museum c/o: 

Dr. Joseph Cook
Curator of Mammals
Museum of Southwestern Biology
CERIA Building, MSC03 2020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM USA 87131-0001