Consumptive Analysis Policy

In addition to the general policy for alteration or removal of specimens or objects from the collection of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, there are specific policies and guidelines that cover the alteration or removal of specimens or parts thereof from the collection in the Section of Mammals. The policies and guidelines, referring to the removal of samples of skin, hair, portions of bone, pieces of dried muscle or other tissues, teeth, organs, or pieces of fluid-preserved specimens, covers both external and internal requests.

Application Protocol 

  • A formal request must be submitted in all cases for consideration of alterations or removal of specimens. Normally only accessioned specimens are considered at this level of request. A written proposal should be sent to Mammals for review and approval in advance of any visit. The proposal should state the nature of the study and the research question(s) being addressed, the techniques that will be used in the study, the taxa that will be required, the number of individuals needed, and the exact nature and size of the sample requested.
  • Proposals should indicate how many samples of material and from which taxa the applicant has available from his/her own field or laboratory efforts. Proposals should indicate whether any material may be available from other sources, especially frozen tissue collections or captive populations.
  • Proposals for graduate student research must be co-signed by the graduate student’s major advisor.

    Application Approval 

  • Proposals will be evaluated by curatorial and collection management staff with, in some cases, advice solicited from colleagues at other institutions. Because the intent is to facilitate quality research while conserving the specimens in the collection, the applicant should strive to 1) clearly show the purpose and merit of the research; 2) strongly justify the need for sampling specimens by using published and proven methodology backed up by appropriately cited literature in the proposal; 3) keep the amount of any sample required and the number of taxa to be sampled as small as possible; and 4) demonstrate the competence of the researchers and availability of institutional resources to complete the research project in a timely period. Requests 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 useable data.
  • The rarity of the taxa to be sampled in the wild (endangered species and poorly known taxa) as well as in museum collections will influence the approval of a request.
  • The effect of the sampling procedure and the amount of the sample taken on the physical integrity of any specimen and its future utility for other kinds of systematic research will influence the approval of a request. .

    Sampling Procedures 

  • Actual sampling will be done by collection staff and specimen records will be annotated at that time. The specimen record will reflect the type of sample removed and the location from which the sample was taken. This information will be recorded for assessment of future sampling requests. The final selection of actual specimens to be sampled will be done by collection staff in consultation with the researcher, if the researcher is on-site to examine the specimens with Section staff.
  • Actual sampling will be monitored by a staff member so that annotations of specimen records can be done at the same time. Normally only one sample can be removed from any specimen.
  • Normally only one sample can be removed from any specimen. Sampling of borrowed specimens will not generally be allowed. Holotypes are not available for sampling.


  • Samples are only approved for the study as outlined in the application and should not be used for any additional studies without prior approval. Unused portions of the samples or altered samples resulting from the study are to be returned to the Section of Mammals unless prior arrangements have been made.
  • Genomic DNA samples are to be returned to the Section of Mammals for inclusion in the DNA library or, in certain cases, to be deposited via an official transaction with the Section of Mammals in another approved DNA library.
  • Any reference to the source of samples in publications should clearly refer to the voucher specimen in Mammals by CM number. Please note that our official acronym is “CM.”
  • Any reprints of publications or reports (printed or electronic if printed is not available) resulting from the samples taken from specimens in this collection should be sent for deposit in the J. Kenneth Doutt Memorial Library of the Section of Mammals.


  • Our decision to accept or reject a request for consumptive sampling takes into account that our collections are finite resources and one of our primary responsibilities is to protect the Section of Mammals’ holdings to insure that they are available for use by future generations of researchers.
  • While we do approve such requests, they are evaluated more stringently than other requests.
  • 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 CMNH Section of Mammals’ holdings may require that some requests for consumptive samples be denied.