Policies & Loans

If you are interested in requesting a specimen loan (including tissues), please read the loan policy below. Please fill out and submit a loan request form, which can be obtained here. If you have any additional questions, please contact the curator.


The UAM Mammal Collection provides loans of skulls, skeletons, skins and fluid-preserved specimens to the global, non-profit research community. Because investigators often cannot travel to Alaska, loans are an important use of this collection. These policies are intended to identify reasonable requests and ensure that obligations to the scientific community are met. All requests are carefully evaluated and must be approved by the curator and collection staff.

Generally, we loan specimens to university faculty, curators, and permanent staff at institutions with facilities to properly care for specimens (generally, those that meet or exceed the requirements for accreditation by the American Society of Mammalogists' Systematic Collections Committee). Loans are not made to students or postdocs, who should request loans through their faculty advisor, mentor, or museum curator. Requests from individuals who are not affiliated with such an institution may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Contact the curator for more information.

Prospective borrowers should fill out our loan request form that will provide us with the following information.

  • An outline of the study plan with sufficient detail to objectively evaluate the merit of the proposal. This should be in a format that we can present on our website to demonstrate the use and scientific merit of the collection
  • A statement that the collection will be acknowledged in publications resulting from use of the collection and that UAM specimens will be cited by UAM catalog number
  • A description and justification of the quantity of the material required for the research

Upon receipt of loaned specimens, the borrower (or in the case of students or postdocs, their faculty mentor or curator) must sign and return a copy of the loan invoice. Specimen damage that occurs during transit should be reported immediately.

Loans may not be transferred to another institution or researcher without prior written consent from the curator. Loaned material may not be used for research that was not specified in the original loan request without written permission from the curator.

Loans are generally made for six months. Requests for loan extensions should be made to the curator in writing.

Large loans may be divided into multiple installments, and subsequent shipments are sent only upon safe return of previously shipped material.

UAM can pay the costs of sending typical-sized loans to institutions via USPS. If another carrier is requested, the borrower must pay the shipping costs. The borrowing institution pays for the return of specimens. Returned specimens must be packaged in the provided shipping container and be sent with a tracking number. Reimbursement to UAM for shipping costs of very large loans may be negotiated with the borrower.

Researchers requesting specimens that must be exported, specimens that have been imported, endangered species, or marine mammals must provide assurance and/or evidence that any legal requirements associated with receiving the material have been met. You may need to cite permit numbers and/or provide copies of permits.

UAM holds a NOAA/NMFS marine mammal permit to ship NMFS-managed marine mammal species, and we hold a USFWS CITES Certificate of Scientific Exchange (COSE) to import and export CITES-listed species between registered CITES institutions.

Researchers are strongly encouraged to seek and obtain permission to borrow or use UAM specimens prior to submitting a major funding proposal (many funding panels now expect this). UAM is in no way obligated to make samples available for funded projects (regardless of the funding source) if permission to borrow material has not been approved in advance by the curator.

UAM is not responsible for verifying the identification of specimens. Every effort has been made to ensure the validity of the taxonomic identification, locality, and other data associated with the specimen. However, errors do exist. If any problems with data are discovered, please let us know.

UAM has a standard moratorium on shipping loans between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

As a user of the collection, you are in a good position to understand and document specimen use. Such documentation is essential to financing continued collection development and curation. Please provide us with documentation of the significance of your work on museum specimens as you would document the significance of your work to other sponsors. Given that time between a loan and publication is often several years, other documents such as abstracts of proposals, theses, and conference presentations can help us demonstrate activity in the collection.

Loaned material must be acknowledged in publications and presentations and be cited by UAM catalog number. Reprints should be provided to the curator. Failure to abide by the conditions of the loan (detailed on the Loan Invoice) or the acknowledgment requirements could result in denial of future loan requests from you, your department, and possibly your institution.

Completed loan request forms should be e-mailed to Link Olson at link.olson[at]alaska.edu


The UAM Mammal Collection includes more than 125,000 tissue samples from over 70,000 specimens. Most of these are frozen, although some have been preserved in ethanol or buffer prior to freezing. See the Genomic Resources page for more information on this facility.

Unlike traditional specimens (skulls, skeletons and skins), the use of tissue samples results in the eventual depletion of the specimen. These guidelines have been developed to ensure both short- and long-term availability of our tissue samples.

Qualified researchers may request limited grants of tissue from UAM. UAM generally will not provide all samples required for a project, and grants are intended to supplement material previously obtained through collecting or additional loans. Researchers from other institutions requesting tissue grants must adhere to our loan policy. UAM, in return, covers the expense of obtaining, housing, and maintaining these samples.

Requests for samples of UAM tissues or specimens is an acknowledgment that the researcher supports scientific collecting and understands the time and effort that goes into collecting, preparing, and maintaining museum collections. In exchange for granting samples for research, we may occasionally ask borrowers to provide written support of scientific collecting and our collection.

Researchers seeking tissue grants will be asked to fill out our loan request form, which will require the following information (on which the request will be evaluated).

  • A clear indication of what specimens are being requested. You should be able to identify specific specimens using the Arctos database. If you cannot, contact the curator or collection manager to discuss your request.
  • Demonstration of experience in the techniques to be used. Please provide evidence that the material requested will supply a level of resolution and confidence appropriate to the question.   Results from pilot research will be required for first-time users and may be required from any investigator if the taxon is rare.  
  • Justification for the quantity of material requested for research.
  • A statement that samples will be used only for the study outlined in the loan request. Material may not be subsequently loaned or given to a third party without the written consent of UAM.
  • A statement that all UAM specimens included in a published study will (1) be individually cited in publication by UAM catalog number and (2) that resulting data will be provided to a public archive (e.g., GenBank) indicating the UAM catalog numbers, and that such archival accession numbers will be provided to UAM.
  • Assurance and/or evidence that you have met any legal requirements associated with receiving the material. You may need to cite permit numbers and/or provide copies of permits.   (These requirements apply to samples that must be exported, samples that have been imported, endangered species and marine mammals.)
  • Indicate how you wish the samples to be shipped and how you will pay for shipping costs.
  • A separate abstract of the project that can be permanently posted in our online database. This should be on the order of 150 words and should provide sufficient detail for the scientific merit of the request to be apparent.  

Costs: Subsamples of tissues sufficient for two standard DNA extractions and are sent by Federal Express in buffer or desiccant at ambient temperature, unless otherwise specified by the recipient.  We prepare and ship such shipments free of charge for students but request FedEx account numbers from professional recipients. 

Completed loan request forms should be e-mailed to Link Olson at link.olson[at]alaska.edu

When fresh tissue samples are not available or appropriate, researchers may request samples of bone, teeth, skin, hair, or other integumental tissues from traditional specimens for DNA, isotope, or other analyses. To balance the needs of the scientific community with the long-term preservation of the collection for future use each request for destructive sampling will be judiciously considered under the guidelines below.

Destructive sampling of specimens is permitted only when the curator is satisfied that (1) the overall integrity of the specimen is not compromised, (2) the proposed work is of sufficient merit to have a very high probability of publication, and (3) that the resulting publication(s) will cite each specimen used by UAM catalog number. The information gained should enhance the utility of the specimen, thereby compensating for its permanently diminished condition.  

Completed loan request forms should be e-mailed to Link Olson at link.olson[at]alaska.edu