Sample collection policy

I. Summary

All biological and geological samples collected with MBARI resources will be accessioned to the MBARI sample collection and considered to be MBARI property. Collectors have exclusive use of all samples obtained for a two-year period, after which time, samples of scientific value will be curated and archived into the MBARI sample collection. This embargo period may be extended on a case by case basis. Samples donated to MBARI will be accepted if they meet the regional or scientific interests at MBARI, if they and their documentation are in good condition, and if MBARI can provide for their care. Once accepted, all donated samples will be considered MBARI property. MBARI personnel may store privately owned samples in the collection contingent upon available space for storage. Samples will be available for loan to external researchers and collaborators, subject to review of proposed research and agreement to the loan terms.

II. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to establish the policies concerning biological and geological samples contained within the MBARI collection. This document recognizes the inherent scientific value of these samples and their documentation, delineates responsibilities, provides for care of the collections, and balances use and destruction of samples, in the context of the mission of MBARI.

Collaborators: Researchers, including students who collaborate with MBARI staff in research projects, and who are subject to MBARI’s collaborations agreements.
Collectors: Investigators for whom samples were collected and who will be involved in decisions regarding such issues as exclusive-use embargoes and loans.
Exclusive-use embargo: An initial two-year period of time when the Collector has exclusive research privileges to samples and resulting data. This period may be extended by prior arrangement with the Sample Coordinator, ITD Director, or MBARI President if samples are involved in active, on-going research or the Collector has submitted the data and results for imminent publication.

III. Mission statement

The mission of the MBARI Sample Collection is to provide facilities and protocols for conserving the long-term scientific value of samples collected with MBARI resources or by MBARI collaborators, and to make these samples accessible for research and education.

IV. Acquisitions and accessions

The MBARI Sample Collection is a repository for biological and geological samples collected with MBARI resources (ships and/or salary), and for samples donated to MBARI. These samples are acquired primarily on oceanographic expeditions as part of scientific research projects. In addition, many of the samples are rare and difficult to collect. They represent a great diversity of material, from rocks, sediment cores, and jars of fluid-preserved animals, to the objects derived from them, such as genetic information, SEM stubs, thin sections, and dry shells. These samples are retained by MBARI for further research, reference, publication vouchers, and educational purposes. The value of these samples is immeasurable and collectors are encouraged to follow the recommended procedures for identification and preservation of samples according to discipline. Methods for preservation, storage, and documentation of samples are outlined on the sample collection web page at (internal access only).

Accessioning is the formal process by which a sample is accepted into MBARI’s custody and recorded as a sample collection item. This process includes cataloging each sample and accompanying documentation, assigning an MBARI sample collection number, and placing it in the appropriate storage facility.

Acceptance of samples is subject to the following terms:

  1. All samples must be collected and imported in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the country of origin, of the federal government of the United States, and of individual states within the United States. Copies of permits must be forwarded to the Sample Coordinator.
  2. Samples collected with MBARI resources are MBARI property, commencing with the initiation of the collection event. Samples may be initially retained by the Collector during the exclusive-use embargo period to perform analyses. Following that time period, the Collector will assess the condition and scientific value of remaining sample material, subsamples, and preparations resulting from analyses, and transfer suitable samples to the sample collection for archival. Samples to be archived must be labeled with all essential data, preserved and placed in approved containers. Documentation including field data and subsequent sample preparation methods must be submitted to the Sample Coordinator at the time the samples are accessioned. Samples that are not suitable for archiving will not be accessioned.
  3. Samples donated to MBARI may be accepted if they are materials within the scope of MBARI’s regional or scientific interests, are in good condition, have adequate documentation (e.g., location, date, Collector), and MBARI can provide for their care. Final acceptance of these samples rests with the Sample Coordinator, the ITD Director, and MBARI President.
  4. Samples from MBARI field work and all donations, exchanges, gifts, and bequests are considered outright and unconditional accessions to be used at MBARI’s discretion. “Permanent loans” are ambiguous as to control and financial responsibility and will be discouraged.
  5. “Voucher” or “type” samples will be given special status in the collection. Voucher samples are defined as samples or part thereof preserved to document data in a report. Type samples are defined as samples used to define new taxonomic units.

V. Deaccessions

MBARI reserves the right to determine whether samples will be retained in the collection and to deaccession, or legally remove, transfer title, or destroy, samples that will no longer be retained. Considerations for deaccession include:

  1. The sample is a primary “type” sample and is being given to a repository in the public domain.
  2. The sample is no longer of scientific value through inadequate documentation or deterioration.
  3. The sample is destroyed during analysis.
  4. The sample falls outside of MBARI’s research interests.
  5. MBARI can no longer provide for the sample’s care.
  6. Legality or ownership is challenged.

The Sample Coordinator will consult with the Collector when one of the above considerations is identified for a sample. Likewise, the Collector may recommend materials for deaccessioning if they have deteriorated beyond usefulness. Final decisions rest with MBARI’s ITD Director and President. All information regarding deaccessioned samples will be documented and stored in the sample collection’s permanent records.

The following sequence for disposal of deaccessioned samples will include:

  1. Offer to a repository in the public domain.
  2. Transfer to another institution or professional collection.
  3. Use for teaching purposes.
  4. Destruction.

VI. Documentation

Supporting documentation is of primary importance to the scientific value of samples. During collection events, pertinent data must be documented and linked with each sample. Meticulous and detailed documentation will ensure that a sample’s field data, history of use, physical condition, identification, and location in the archives are known. These records may actually have to substitute for a sample should it be destroyed.

MBARI is responsible for making the development and management of documentation an institute-wide priority. This policy requires the coordination of research teams, collections staff, information applications developers, and systems managers.

The Collector is primarily responsible for documentation and must provide the Sample Coordinator with all available data. The Collector must obtain and comply with permits, log collection event information, label samples, record subsequent analytical treatments, and document collaborator transactions and publications.

The Sample Coordinator is responsible for providing mechanisms for documenting samples as they are collected, gathering supporting documentation when samples are archived, and recording loan transactions. Documentation will be stored separately from samples.

Information to be recorded

  1. Collection event: Event information (time and location), expedition information, and descriptions or identifications; copies of field notebook pages and permits; chemical preservatives; and drawings or photographs.
  2. Labels: Identification, location, and date of collection, Collector’s name, preservative used. Acid-free paper labels inside dry sample containers and alcohol-proof 100% rag paper inside fluid-preserved sample jars are the acceptable materials for archive labels.
  3. Subsampling and analysis: Thorough descriptions or identifications; details of subsamples, treatments, or preparations; and analyses performed. Analytical data should be retained by the investigator.
  4. Publication: Citations of publications generated through study of samples.
  5. Loans: Transactions, collaborators, preparations, or destructive sampling.

VII. Access to records

Access to collection records and supporting data will be provided for research and educational purposes upon approval by the Sample Coordinator. MBARI has ownership of the information and may deny access to partial or entire data sets due to concerns over indiscriminate use or based on an individual’s past record of abuse of user privileges or negative recommendations by colleagues. Use of the information is subject to MBARI’s collaborator and intellectual-property agreements. Upon approval, records will be made available through applications developed for search and retrieval of the underlying databases.

VIII. Access to samples

Access to samples will be provided for research and educational purposes upon approval by the Sample Coordinator. Access may be denied based on an individual’s past record of abuse of user privileges, improper handling of samples, or negative recommendations by colleagues. Use of samples is governed by the destructive-sampling and loan policies, described in sections IX and XII respectively.

Samples may be examined in the storage areas, or may be retrieved from storage areas upon request. Access to storage areas must be regulated because of concerns for collection integrity, MBARI’s liability, and personal safety, and is restricted to authorized personnel, who include the Collector’s team, Sample Coordinator, Director of Heath and Safety, Facilities staff, and President. All others require permission from, or may be accompanied by, one of the authorized personnel listed above. Access to storage areas by the general public will be discouraged. Transport of samples away from storage areas must be documented with the Sample Coordinator so the samples may be tracked. Samples and subsamples should be returned to the Sample Coordinator as soon as possible.


  1. Authorized personnel who wish to use the sample facilities alone must notify his or her supervisor of the planned use, duration and expected return time from the sample archives.
  2. Other MBARI staff or collaborators who would like to examine samples in the storage areas should contact the Sample Coordinator to arrange a visit.
  3. MBARI staff or collaborators who would like samples retrieved from storage should notify the Sample Coordinator which samples need to be retrieved at least one day before the samples are required. This procedure is recommended when samples require detailed examination, as there is limited bench space in the storage facilities.
  4. Other researchers outside MBARI may access samples under the conditions specified in the Loan Policy.

IX. Destructive sampling

Destructive sampling is analysis that destroys or alters all or a portion of a sample. Ideally, use of samples should be balanced with consideration for their long-term preservation; studies of samples should be designed to maximize the potential research value of the samples, while minimizing the damaging effects.

At MBARI, samples are collected for the purposes of scientific research projects and, therefore, are subject to the treatments and analytical procedures required to advance the science, at the discretion of the Collector, even if they result in consumption or alteration of the sample. Research following archival may also result in destruction of the sample if necessary for the research and approved by the Collector and/or Sample Coordinator as part of loan transactions.

The methods and extent of destructive sampling should be documented as part of the history of the sample. Lasting preparations generated by subsampling (i.e. SEM stubs or thin sections) may be retained by the researcher through the exclusive-use embargo period. Ultimately, all accessory preparations shall be archived into the sample collection with the original sample data. Samples that are totally destroyed on analysis will be deaccessioned. Primary “type” samples, publication “voucher” samples, endangered or extinct species, or samples of sorts that are not well represented in the collection will be protected from destructive sampling.

X. Care of collections

The management and care of samples in the sample collection will be governed by respect for the scientific, physical, historical, and aesthetic integrity of the samples and their associated data, and the recognition that a sample’s condition generally cannot be improved if it receives improper handling.

MBARI is responsible for promoting the philosophy of preventive conservation to minimize the deterioration of samples, and for providing the resources and infrastructure required to conserve samples and documentation in its custody, including allocating staff time for curation efforts and furnishing adequate, secure storage facilities.

The Sample Coordinator is responsible for the care and authority of the archived collections. This care will be provided through frequent monitoring of samples and storage facilities, assisting with procurement of supplies, and using professionally accepted techniques for preventive conservation, environmental control, and sample treatments.

The Collector’s staff is responsible for initial preservation, documentation, storage, routine prep work, and analyses, which are to be performed in the science labs. Their use will greatly facilitate archival care of the samples and help ensure that their condition will not deteriorate over time. The Collector should advise the Sample Coordinator through the proposal process if greater than usual sample collecting is anticipated.

XI. Safety

The MBARI Safety Management Program provides guidelines for safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials and procedures in cases of emergency. All users of the sample collection, including MBARI staff, students, collaborators, and visitors, must comply with its requirements.

In accordance with this program, material safety data sheets (MSDS) will be available on-site, appropriate fire suppression and hazardous-material handling and spill-containment equipment will be provided, and containers must be labeled with the chemical name and concentrations and stored safely. Employees will be trained in safe work practices and must report any accident, injury, or unsafe or unhealthful condition to their supervisor.

XII. Loans

A loan is a temporary physical transfer of samples without transfer of ownership, and implies the return of material. Loans are made to institutions, not individuals. Student requests must be submitted through their academic advisors.

For each loan, an invoice must be written and signed by both parties. The invoice will itemize the materials loaned and analyses to be performed, and state the duration and other conditions of the loan, including limitations of the purpose of the loan, responsibilities of the parties, and options for renewal. It also will form a contract between MBARI and the borrower’s institution. If a sample is to be destroyed on analysis, the requestor must follow these loan request procedures but the sample will be deaccessioned from the sample collection.

Samples from the MBARI sample collection are available for further study, by slightly different procedures, to (A) collaborators and (B) outside investigators, and are subject to the terms listed below.

  • Loans to collaborators

As soon as samples are collected, samples may be loaned to researchers collaborating with the Collector. A collaborator’s agreement must be signed, which specifies the nature of the collaboration. A loan invoice must be written specifying the loan terms.

(B) Loans to outside investigators
Following the exclusive-use embargo period, samples are available for further study by investigators from outside MBARI who have reputations for ensuring adequate care of materials on loan. Collaborations with MBARI scientists will be encouraged but not required. Loans may be denied because of concern for the safety of the collections, an exclusive-use embargo by the Collector, or at the discretion of the MBARI ITD Director or President.

Each request must be in the form of a written proposal to MBARI, outlining researcher qualifications, the intended research project and scientific justification the request, a description of the analyses to be performed, and a list of the samples that they wish to borrow. The request will be reviewed by the Sample Coordinator, the Collector, and the ITD Director. A loan invoice must be written specifying the loan terms.

Loan terms
The following conditions must be met for all loan transactions:

  1. Samples will be loaned initially for up to six months, but this may be extended upon written request and approval.
  2. Samples must be retained in the same type of preservative in which they were issued.
  3. Invasive or destructive analyses may only be performed with explicit permission from MBARI. These include dissections, consumptive analyses, sawing, cleaning, or other alteration. The proposed methods must be the least intrusive for obtaining the intended results, yet they must be likely to yield the intended results.
  4. MBARI should be notified of any recommended change of identification of samples on loan.
  5. Studies of the samples are expected to result in the dissemination of the information through publications. MBARI’s loans must be acknowledged in all publications or reports resulting from the use of our samples. Samples should be cited by their MBARI sample number. Two copies of each publication must be sent to the Sample Coordinator for inclusion in our library.
  6. Loans are not to be forwarded to third parties without advance written permission from MBARI.
  7. The institution receiving the loan is responsible for each sample’s safekeeping and safe return.
  8. Any material remaining from the samples must be returned to MBARI. Resulting analytical data and duplicates of tangible products, such as photographs and micrographs, shall be provided to MBARI to become part of the sample’s permanent records.
  9. The costs of processing and shipping samples to be loaned are covered by MBARI, with the expectation that loans will be returned at the borrower’s expense. Return shipments must be insured to the same value as the outgoing shipment.
  10. Required documentation for legal transport and customs authorities (i.e. hazardous materials and wildlife status) must accompany each shipment.
  11. A copy of the loan invoice must accompany each shipment. The original will be annotated with the date of return of sample and kept in the permanent records of the sample collection.

XIII. Publication voucher and primary “type” samples

The scientific integrity of a research publication depends on the ability of subsequent investigators to repeat the study described. Examples of the samples involved in the research should be preserved to permit verification or duplication of the study and provide critical information for future scientific investigations. Type samples will be recommended for deaccession to a suitable public repository.

To substantiate our research and as a service to future researchers, samples photographed, referred to in figures and tables, described, or otherwise cited in professional or scientific publications will be specially identified in the sample collection. They will be considered voucher samples and destructive analyses or deaccessioning will be discouraged.

Samples should be listed by sample number in the text and figure and table legends of publications, and two copies of the publications should be provided to the Sample Coordinator.

Primary “type” samples – check into-definitions, i.e. voucher samples
The samples used to describe a new species for the first time in the literature, primary “type” (paratype and holotype) samples, require special consideration in addition to the procedure above. The Collector may designate a taxonomist to describe the species, following the “Loans to collaborators” procedures. Upon publication, these samples should be permanently housed in a repository in the public domain. Title will be transferred formally to the receiving institution and they will be deaccessioned from the sample collection.

XIV. Personal collections

Personal collections are those samples that belong to an MBARI staff member, not to MBARI; were not collected with MBARI resources; and will be taken with the owner when the owner leaves MBARI. MBARI will store personal collections on MBARI property if the owner requests, as space and resources permit. Their care, storage containers, and disposition remain the owner’s responsibility. MBARI will not be liable for them in any way.

XV. Orphaned collections

Orphaned collections are personal collections that remain at MBARI when a researcher leaves or are donated by someone outside MBARI. These will be accessioned into the sample collection if they meet the requirements stated in the acquisition policy. If they do not, we will refuse them and may elect to dispose of them.


Data repository
Data policy
Deep-Sea Guide
What is happening in Monterey Bay today?
Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System
Chemical data
Ocean float data
Slough data
Mooring ISUS measurements
Southern Ocean Data
Mooring data
M1 Mooring Summary Data
M1 Asimet
M1 download Info
M1 EMeter
Molecular and genomics data
ESP Web Portal
Seafloor mapping
Soundscape Listening Room
Upper ocean data
Spatial Temporal Oceanographic Query System (STOQS) Data
Image gallery
Video library
Creature feature
Deep-sea wallpapers
Previous seminars
David Packard Distinguished Lecturers
Research software
Video Annotation and Reference System
System overview
Data Use Policy
Video Tape User Guide
Video File User Guide
Annotation Glossary
Query Interface
Basic User Guide
Advanced User Guide
Query Glossary
VARS publications
VARS datasets used in publications
Oceanographic Decision Support System
MB-System seafloor mapping software
How to download and install MB-System
MB-System Documentation
MB-System Announcements
MB-System Announcements (Archive)
MB-System FAQ
MB-System Discussion Lists
MB-System YouTube Tutorials
Matlab scripts: Linear regressions
Introduction to Model I and Model II linear regressions
A brief history of Model II regression analysis
Index of downloadable files
Summary of modifications
Regression rules of thumb
Results for Model I and Model II regressions
Graphs of the Model I and Model II regressions
Which regression: Model I or Model II?
Matlab scripts: Oceanographic calculations
Matlab scripts: Sound velocity
Visual Basic for Excel: Oceanographic calculations
Educational resources
Navigating STEM careers
MBARI Summer Internship Program
2017 Summer Interns Blog
Education and Research: Testing Hypotheses (EARTH)
EARTH workshops
2016—New Brunswick, NJ
2015—Newport, Oregon
2016 Satellite workshop—Pensacola, FL
2016 Satellite workshop—Beaufort, NC
EARTH resources
EARTH lesson plans
Lesson plans—published
Lesson plans—development
Lesson drafts—2015
Lesson drafts—2016 Pensacola
Adopt-A-Float Program
Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) Science Kits
Science at home: Curriculum and resources
Sample archive
SciComm Resources