Policies - Use, Loan, Acquisition, Fees

Use Policies

1. All specimen collections of the Academy shall be accessible for legitimate research and study by all responsible investigators, subject to procedures necessary to safeguard the specimens and to restrictions required by limitations of normal working hours, of exhibition requirements, or available study space and facilities, and of the Academy staff time necessary to protect the collections and to guide investigators as to specimen locations and documentation.

2. The use of departmental collections or facilities by outside commercial organizations, such as environmental consulting companies, will be at the discretion of the department chairman, and normally will involve a fee as reimbursement for curator or technical time involved in assisting such organizations.

3. Individuals requesting access to specimens or records must state in writing the purpose of their inquiries. Ordinarily, access shall be limited to legitimate scholarly and legal inquiry.

4. In order to protect our collections from insect infestations we do not allow dried plant material into the Department until the material has been frozen, on site, for a minimum of 72 hours.

Loan Policies

1. The Academy will lend specimens, from its collections, for research, to any recognized herbarium. Loans will not be made directly to individuals.

2. All loan transactions must be documented in writing, using appropriate forms.

3. The following criteria shall govern the availability of material:

a. The materials are not being studied by staff or students at the Academy.

b. The materials are not needed for display or educational programs at the Academy during the proposed loan period.

c. Objects shall not be loaned if, in the opinion of the department chairman, they are of such importance, rarity, and/or fragility that they must not be exposed to any danger or loss by removal from the Academy.

4. Length of Loans - Most loans shall be made initially for a period of one year or less. Short loan periods are appropriate for certain items, e.g. type specimens.

5. Modes of Study of Loaned Materials - Customary and usual methods of study in the particular discipline must be applied to materials on loan. If such studies require partial destruction or severe alteration of the materials, written permission of this must be obtained in advance from the department chairman.

6. All loans shall be subject to the following regulations, and no loans shall be made where these rules are not adhered to:

a. CAS will pay for shipment of the loans to the borrowing institution, but the return shipment will be paid by the borrowing institution.

b. Adequate care and security of the specimens while on loan must be assured.

c. Only properly trained personnel shall be permitted to handle loaned specimens.

d. Loaned material or associated records may not be used for profit-making purposes without specific written permission from the Collection Manager. Photographic rights for exhibition, catalog, or publication purposed normally shall be for one time only. In many instances, a fee to the Academy may be appropriate.

e. No objects may be re-loaned by a borrowing institution without written permission from the Collection Manager.

f. Loans must remain at the borrowing institution unless written permission has been given by the Collection Manager to move the loan to another location.

g. Return shipping must be in the same manner as, equivalent to, or better than the original shipping.

h. Specimens used in research publications must be cited as either CAS or DS depending on their accession number.

7. Damages:

a. Loss or damage to a specimen or object must be reported in writing to the department chairman.

b. No repairs will be undertaken without written permission of the Collection Manager.

c. Repair or replacement shall be at the discretion of the Academy with costs borne by the borrower.

Acquisition Policies

A. Priorities for Acquisition

1. First priority: to strengthen collection areas in which a department has a current specialization and recognized holdings and historical interest. This includes materials of direct use in present or projected research or in current educational or exhibition programs; materials of high quality needed to fill gaps or supplement specimens of lesser quality in the current holdings; and materials from biotas, geologic strata, and cultures where technological changes of habitat modification by man or nature place a time limit on the period in which sampling can take place.

2. Second priority: to broaden the comparative base of our established collection areas. This includes archival materials such as voucher specimens for published research, synoptical materials from specialists, and materials which will strengthen a collection area adjacent to a previously established one.

3. Third priority: to obtain collections of general nature which are within the broad interest of the Academy. This includes interesting or unique but inadequately documented specimens that are of limited use in a scientific sense by may be used for exhibit or other educational purposes.

B. Mode of Acquisition
1. The Academy will acquire specimens primarily through field collection, but also by gift, bequest, exchange, and purchase, for the purposed of preservation, research, teaching, and exhibition.

a. The Academy will provide for storage, protection, and preservation of objects under conditions that insure their availability and in keeping with professional accepted standards.

b. It is intended that the objects shall remain in the collections as long as they retain their physical integrity, their authenticity, and their relevance for the purposed of the Academy.

2. The Academy normally will not acquire items for sale but may acquire for exchange.

a. If gift/bequest collections, or parts of collections, are acquired with the intent of disposal of a portion by exchange, outright gift, or other means, the donor or heirs will be so informed.

b. If gift/bequest collections or parts of collections, are acquired for use by one of the educational units of the Academy the donor will be so informed.

3. It is recognized that acquisition of materials often must be opportunistic. From time to time, collections of recognized national or international significance become available, either from individuals or institutions that no longer are able or willing to preserve, maintain, and use them in research and educational activities. Acceptance of responsibility for such collections may involve establishing a new interest area for the Academy. Acquisition and accessioning of such collections must be judged on their individual merits, carefully weighing the values and costs of such acquisitions against the evolving programs and emphases of the Academy.

C. Laws Concerning Specimen Acquisition
Specimens will be acquired by the Academy only when they have been obtained in full compliance with the law and regulations of the countries of origin, of the federal government of the United States, and of the individual states within the United States. The staff will not knowingly support illegal trade by authenticating or expressing opinions concerning material, and will discourage the collection or exhibition of such materials. Every reasonable effort must be made to insure that these conditions be met, that titles of the specimen or specimens may properly be transferred to the Academy, and that the Academy keeps up to date on the changing laws and regulations concerning permits, specimen collecting, ownership, and movement across political boundaries

D. Ethics of Specimen Acquisition
Specimens shall be accepted that have been collected in such a way as to preserve their scientific value, e.g., biological materials with adequate documentation or archaeological and geological objects taken with proper recording of site and stratigraphic data. Collections that involve unnecessary destruction of sites, or decimation of populations having limited numbers of tenuous existence shall now knowingly be made by staff members or accepted by the Academy from others. In all actions, the Academy and its staff must act as responsible conservationists and scientists aiming to preserve and guard the living cultural heritage of the earth.

E. Conditions of Acceptance
1. Minimum requirements of documentation vary in the several scientific departments. Such standards are necessary prerequisites for specimens to be added to the collections.

2. Specimens with inadequate date, but having scientific or other value, may be accepted at the discretion of the department chairman.

3. Undocumented specimens that are good examples of their type may be acquired for use in exhibition and educational programs.

4. All acquisitions must conform to the following conditions.

a. Approval of the department chairman.

b. The legal and ethical stipulations set forth in Sections C and D above.

c. The material must be the legal property of the donor/institution/dealer making the offer, or he/she/it must have legal authority to dispose of said material.

5. The Academy cannot accept specimens on which restrictions are placed with would prevent effective research use, normal exhibition use, loan, or disposal. The Academy will not normally accept specimens on conditions which would require that they be placed on exhibition, or that the collections of which they form a part should be kept together permanently and/or displayed only as a discrete collection. Permission to deviate from this procedure must receive approval of the Executive Director.

F. Evaluation of Acquisitions and Other Materials
No person acting as an employee of the Academy shall give appraisals for any purpose, including establishing the tax-deductible value of gifts offered to the Academy, nor shall he or she identify or otherwise authenticate for persons or agencies specimens under circumstances that could encourage or benefit illegal, unethical, or irresponsible traffic in such materials, or when there is reason to believe such identifications will be used primarily for commercial purposes. Identification and authentication (but not appraisals) may be given for scientific or educational purposes or in compliance with the legitimate requests of government bodies or their agents.

Commercial Use Fees

The use of departmental collections or facilities by outside commercial organizations, such as environmental consulting companies, will be at the discretion of the department chairman and subject to the following fees:

$50/day (min. 1 day)

plus $100/hour (min. 1 hour) if help is required by a curator or the collection manager and $25/hour (min. 1 hour) if help is required by a curatorial assistant.

  • Click here for the pdf version of the Request for Destructive Sampling of Herbarium Specimens





The collections of the CAS/DS herbaria are maintained with the goal of balancing preservation of the integrity of herbarium specimens with utilization for scientific research.  We ask that you read this policy statement and return a signed copy of this form to the address indicated below.  No destructive sampling is allowed of the CAS or DS specimens until permission is granted to the person institutionally responsible for the receipt of the specimens.


The investigator requesting destructive sampling should have experience with laboratory techniques to ensure a reasonable probability of conducting a successful procedure.  To that end, students MUST have the signature of their advisor before sampling will be allowed.  Although every effort will be made to accommodate researchers, decisions concerning destructive sampling of collections are made on a case-by-case basis. 


Permission for removal of material is contingent upon adherence to the following guidelines:


  1. The California Academy of Sciences Herbarium allows destructive sampling of its herbarium specimens only in support of studies in systematic botany.  Material from specimens will not be provided for research with potential commercial applications.


  1. Material may only be removed from specimens that represent taxa that are not available from the field or from cultivated plants. The destructive sampling of herbarium specimens should be viewed as a compliment to field sampling for cases where field sampling is not possible.


  1. Material may not be removed from type collections, collections made prior to 1960, specimens of endangered or extinct taxa or from taxa represented by 3 or fewer collections, except on rare occasions and with special permission from a designated curator.


4.   If your research involves any taxon listed on any of the CITES Appendices, you may not transport any parts of plants or plant products (e.g., DNA extracts) internationally unless both the shipping and receiving institutions are registered with CITES.

5.   Leaf material, pollen, spores, etc. may be removed from specimens only when adequate material is available.  For DNA studies, only leaf material may be removed (usually not more than 20 mg), and this leaf material should be from the packet on the specimen if at all possible.


6.   Requests for removal of material for DNA studies will be reviewed by the Curator of materials for molecular studies.  An extraction protocol must be submitted, along with an estimate of the amount of material needed in terms of both the number of specimens involved and the amount of material to be removed from each specimen.


7.   Pollen can be removed from no more than one flower per sheet, and the sheet must have more than one flower.  If possible a whole flower should not be damaged.


8.   Material may not be removed from an herbarium sheet for a second time, if the nature of the study is the same (i.e., pollen material for SEM, leaf material for DNA analysis, etc.).


9.   Each specimen must be annotated indicating the material removed, the nature of the study, the identification of the specimen, the researcher’s name and institutional affiliation, and the date.   


10.   Material removed for molecular studies should also include the GenBank accession number.  If the procedure for which the material was removed is unsuccessful, the specimen must still be annotated as to the nature of the procedure, with an indication that the procedure was unsuccessful.  Left over samples used for DNA extraction should be properly stored and curated and the researcher should provide CAS with the location of the samples and the storage methods used.  CAS reserves the right to request or to sequence any material that was originally obtained from CAS/DS specimens.


11. When SEM photos are made, a print (ca. 7 x 10 cm) must be returned with the specimen.  This print must clearly indicate the herbarium (CAS or DS) and the accession number of the sheet from which the material was removed for the SEM photo as well as the magnification. 


12.  For large or complicated requests for material for DNA extractions or other studies, researchers will be asked to come to the California Academy of Sciences Herbaria, using their own funds, and select specimens for sampling themselves.  Specimens will be selected and set aside by the researcher, and removal of material will be made with supervision and approval of appropriate staff.  Not only does this reduce the work required of the curatorial staff, but it allows the investigator to make more precise selections.


13.  The herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and/or the Dudley Herbarium of Stanford University (DS) must be cited in any resulting publication, depending on whether collections from one or both of these herbaria were used.  A copy of any publication citing the use of CAS or DS specimens must be sent to the Collections Manager at Botany Department of the California Academy of Sciences.


14. The California Academy of Sciences Herbaria maintain no records on the history of specimen collections such as the methods during collection or subsequent treatment during storage.  Materials are supplied with no warranty of any kind including the correct identity of the specimen.



If you agree to accept the materials under the above conditions, please fill out the following form and return a copy of the guidelines and the signed form to the Collections Manager, Botany Department, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA   94118-4599, U.S.A.



Printed Name and address of the Institution:








Research Investigator:



                                Printed Name








Major Professor (if the Research Investigator is a graduate student):



                                Printed Name








Person institutionally responsible for the loan if different from above:



                                Printed Name







Contact the Department

  • Botany Administrator
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5361 (direct)