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Tissue Policy

Solomon Islands Kingfishers
Most of our tissues have associated voucher specimens such as these Solomon Islands Kingfishers
Photo by Sharon Birks

General Philosophy

We are committed to a program of general collecting that provides voucher specimens for our tissues. Tissues without voucher specimens and collection data are of more limited use because researchers have no way to verify identification or to pursue complementary studies of anatomy, geographic variation in morphology, etc.

Our collection serves two communities: our first priority when collecting tissues is to provide a resource for graduate students and other researchers at the University of Washington. Thus, tissues that were collected with particular research projects in mind or those that could form the basis of a Ph.D. project might not be available for loan, or may be subject to more stringent loan conditions (see below). However, the Burke also gladly provides grants of its tissues and extracts to qualified researchers at other institutions. Usually, these grants are intended to supplement material already obtained through collecting or additional loans: only rarely will the Burke consider providing the bulk of material for a particular research project. All those requesting grants will be expected to abide by our Tissue Policy. In return, the Burke will absorb the high cost of obtaining, cataloguing, and maintaining tissues and extracts for general use by the research community.

Requesting a Tissue Loan

All requests for tissues must be received in writing, preferably via e-mail to the Genetic Resources Collection Manager, Dr. Sharon Birks, sbirks@u.washington.edu.  Researchers should provide detailed information about their proposed project and need for tissues (see list of requested information below). Granting of loans is contingent upon final approval from appropriate curators and researchers within the Division of Zoology.

Service Fee and Exchanges
Because collecting and maintaining tissues is difficult, expensive, and consumptive, we request users provide some evidence of reciprocal benefit to the Burke and/or other museum collections. Currently, we either charge a $25 per tissue service fee, request exchange of specimens or services, or invite co-authorship. Graduate students and staff at the Burke spend much of their time doing general collecting, so co-authorship is encouraged in cases when large series or especially important tissues are requested.

The tissue fee serves several purposes:

  1. It encourages thoughtful use of and appreciation of the collection.
    As laboratory techniques improve, the gap in effort between obtaining tissues and analyzing them is widening into a gulf, particularly for rare or hard-to-obtain species. Our tissue collection is heavily used - typically we loan 1500-2000 tissues per year – and demands on it are growing. Requesting a fee is one way to encourage researchers to evaluate their use of tissue collections, to keep their requests reasonable, and to contribute to building collections when they can.
  2. It spreads the cost of tissues more evenly among users
    As molecular labs become widespread, many researchers who do not have the resources or desire to collect specimens still need access to tissues. The fee allows such users to support collections and to receive loans routinely, without necessarily being asked to respond with exchanges of specimens or tissues.
  3. It provides valuable financial support.
    While laboratory research is generally relatively well funded, museums still struggle to obtain basic funding for and recognition of the importance of their collections. Cryogenic storage for tissues is expensive to maintain, and loans are labor-intensive and sometimes expensive to process. Fees make a valuable contribution towards maintaining the collection and ensuring that it will continue to be available to a wide array of users.

Alternative to the service fee, researchers may request an exchange or collaboration. The following may be considered appropriate for exchange: 1) salvaged or collected frozen whole animals, 2) tissues requested by the Burke for a particular research project, 3) equivalent use of other museum collections. For example, in cases of requests by curators at other institution that also loan tissues routinely, the fee may be waived. In addition, the Burke reserves the right to determine whether an exchange is desirable and of comparable value. Exchanges of tissues or blood without vouchers are generally discouraged. When unusually large numbers of tissues are requested, collaboration or co-authorship may be appropriate; this must be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Genetic Resources collection manager
Genetic Resources collection manager Sharon Birks prepares a tissue loan
Photo by Jeff Bradley

Information Requested

Before receiving loan approval, researchers must provide the following information in their application letter:

  1. Description of Project: Applicants should provide a complete description of the research project, including information about the research goals, scientific rationale for the study, molecular techniques employed, markers used (if applicable), the lab where the research is to be completed, and experience of the researcher or expertise available from lab colleagues.
  2. List of Samples Requested: Please use our online databases to compile a preliminary list of desired tissues, noting UWBM #, scientific name, and tissue number for each requested sample. Researchers who need more detailed specimen data to plan their study (e.g., gonad information) may request this be sent to them.
  3. Relative Contribution of Burke: Researchers should indicate how much genetic material they already have in hand, either from their personal collecting effort or through requests from other institutions. In most cases, researchers should not expect the Burke to provide them with all the tissues necessary for a dissertation or other large project. Rather, we prefer to see evidence that either the project itself is supporting the collection of a reasonable fraction of the material it will require, or that other institutions are contributing tissues to the project.
  4. Statement of Agreement of Conditions of Loan: Researchers must agree to the Burke Museum GRC Loan Conditions (see below), and make a statement to that effect in their request. Loan Conditions will also be listed briefly on the loan packing slip or invoice, which researchers are requested to sign and return upon receipt of tissues.

Loan Conditions

  1. Tissue Use

    You may use loaned tissues and their extracts only for the approved researchers and project. If you wish to change the scope of the project, or share tissue or DNA with additional researchers, you must obtain prior approval from the Burke. While we do not expect you to return extracts or leftover tissue under normal circumstances, in the case of rare tissues we may request that you do so.
  2. Permits

    If a loan is approved, requesters must provide appropriate permits for transport or import. 

    Loans within the U.S.: U.S. researchers who request tissues obtained outside the U.S. will need to conduct their work in a USDA approved laboratory and provide a copy of their USDA transport permit before tissues can be shipped. These permits may be obtained from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

    International Loans: 
    Import permits: Foreign researchers must include any import permit required by the their government. If no permit is needed, the researcher must state so in writing at the time of the tissue request. 
    Export permits: The Burke will arrange appropriate U.S. export permits, which require 1–2 weeks to process. Export of CITES listed species will be greatly facilitated if the receiving institution can provide a Certificate of Scientific Exchange. 
    Export permit fees: As of 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started charging museums a premium inspection fee to process and clear export permits that include any "protected" species, including Migratory Birds, Marine Mammals, CITES species, Endangered or Threatened species, etc. Currently, this fee is $93 per shipment (as of 2012); we will need those requesting loans to cover this fee. In most cases, exports of tissues from animals that are not specially protected under these agreements will not be subject to permit fees.

    Further information about the new fees

    USFW overview pages of laws, treaties, and regulations

    Direct links for determining protection status for species of interest:

    For Migratory Birds
    http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/regulationspolicies/mbta/mbtandx.html (alphabetical list)
    http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/RegulationsPolicies/mbta/taxolst.html (taxonomic list)

    For species covered under CITES

    For species covered under the Endangered Species Act

    For species covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
  3. Acknowledgments and Publications

    Researchers who use our collection for publications and reports should acknowledge the "University of Washington Burke Museum" and should provide copies of their publications to us (hard copy or pdf). These acknowledgements help us justify maintaining the Genetic Resources Collection and making it available to a wide variety of researchers.

    Researchers should provide references to specific tissues used in each publication by listing, at minimum, the tissue’s museum number (e.g., UWBM 54326) in addition to its scientific name. If sequences derived from tissues are submitted to a genetic databank (e.g., GENBANK), the UWBM# and basic voucher specimen information such as location and date should also be included.
  4. Shipping

    Tissues will be sent in 95% ethanol unless otherwise specified, and via courier so that the shipment can be tracked. Loaned tissues will be accompanied by a detailed packing list and/or invoice, and by full voucher specimen information in the form of a catalog printout.

    Loans within the U.S.:  Most loans will be sent at our expense unless the service fee is waived, in which case we ask that researchers provide us with a FedEx account number that we may charge to cover shipment costs. For requests within the U.S., we can also accommodate researchers who prefer loans sent on dry ice. 

    International loans:
    Shipment costs will be covered by those requesting the loan, either by charging users for the actual courier fee (currently ca. US$75-$175 for a typical tissue loan), or by providing an  appropriate courier account number to charge.

    International wire transfers:
    Because international wire transfers currently cost ca. US$25-40, and because we have no control over these costs and cannot anticipate what they will be for individual transactions, people wishing to pay tissue loan service and shipping fees via wire transfer will be charged an additional flat fee of $25, to help off-set the wire-transfer costs.