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    Policies of the Division of Fishes

    I. The acquisition of specimens and related collections

    II. Collection management

    III. Data management

    IV. Collection transactions

    I. The acquisition of specimens and related collections

    Specimens of fishes and related collections (photographs, field notes, and data sheets) are primarily received from divisional field crews employed to monitor and study the fishes of New Mexico. We also receive large collections from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Endangered Species Program), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Fisheries Research Office) and, to a lesser extent, government agencies in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. Ichthyology classes and graduate student research also contribute to the collections. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish permit requires that fishes collected for research be deposited in the MSB Division of Fishes.

    Basic criteria for depositing collections in the MSB Division of Fishes are:

    1. Specimens and documents are consistent with the mission, goals, and geographical profile of the Division.
    2. Copies of all relevant collecting permits must accompany the specimens.
    3. Original field notes with complete and pertinent locality data are deposited with the collections [PDF Field Sheet]
    4. Specimens are properly collected and preserved in the field, following the protocol in the Guidelines for Use of Fishes in Research.

    Before collecting specimens intended for the MSB, researchers should call or email the Collection Manager for specific information on specimen preservation in the field, accession protocol, and policy.

    Basic criteria for donations such as libraries, equipment, or funds to the “Friends of the MSB Division of Fishes” can be found either with the UNM Foundation web site or University of New Mexico Business Policies and Procedures Manual.

    The Division staff does not provide appraisals of specimen collections or documents but will provide the donor with a written acknowledgement (on museum letterhead) of receipt. The MSB Division of Fishes does not purchase collections of any kind.

    For further information call or email the Collections Manager at +1-505-277-6005 or


    II. Collection management

    Management of the fish collection is essential for maintaining a balance between current uses of the collection and its future usefulness to the scientific community. Through good curatorial procedure and by imposing certain restrictions on specimen use, we hope to maintain the collection so that it meets the needs of different types of research, for a long time. The following are some collection management protocol used to maintain the collections’ usefulness.

    Accession number and files: All incoming collections receive a unique accession number and a hard file for storing collecting permits, correspondence, reports, photographs, and CD backups of electronic files that relate to the accession.

    Destructive sampling: Removal of tissues and parts of specimens is not allowed in the W.J. Koster collections or the collections of rare and extinct fishes. Any destructive sampling must take place on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE SPECIMEN, must not destroy bone, and cannot disrupt important diagnostic characters such as barbles, urogenital vent, or scales used in meristics.

    Specimen processing: All specimens are sorted, identified, counted, and the standard lengths taken for the smallest and largest individuals. Specimens of adult fishes that will be placed in the ethanol collection are transferred from formalin to water, then through ethanol concentrations of 35% and 50% before they are permanently placed into 70% ethanol. Eggs and larvae are counted and the stage noted. Eggs are maintained in buffered 5% formalin. Larvae are maintained in either buffered 5% formalin or transferred from 5% formalin directly to 35%, then stepped up through the ethanol series to 70%.

    Specimen identification: Specimens are identified by permanent field and museum staff. The name of the identifier and the date of identification are maintained with the specimen database and in the jar of fish. Any larvae that cannot be identified by MSB staff are sent to the Colorado State University, Larval Fish Lab in Ft. Collins CO for confirmation.

    Specimen organization: Specimens are arranged phylogenetically according to Joseph S. Nelson’s 2nd edition of Fishes of the World, 1984 (Publisher, New York, John Wiley and Sons, 523 pp.) The jars, vial jars, and tanks are secondarily organized by New Mexico drainages. Within that arrangement, they are organized alphabetically by genus and then, alphabetically by species. Only identified, catalogued fishes are shelved in the main collection. Uncatalogued collections are arranged on “Accession Shelves” by field number.

    Specimen data: Currently, specimen and field data are captured using a custom designed database program in MS Access. [Link to ntop and nbottom field structures]. This program supports cataloguing, label production, mapping and report generation.

    Management of the collection involves all staff members. In an average year, we accession approximately 2,000 lots (or about 150,000 specimens) of eggs, larvae and adult fishes. The following staff list details responsibilities.


    III. Data management

    Full Data Sharing Policy here

    The management of the MSB fishes database serves two purposes: to organize specimen data efficiently and to effectively disseminate those data for legitimate, nonprofit research.

    Data are available to qualified researchers for academic or educational purposes only.

    Requests for data must be sent to the Curator of Fishes in a letter format [e.g. formal letter] stating what data are required and for what purpose. The letter should include the researcher’s institutional affiliation and, if they are a student, the name of their academic advisor. All requests will be given equal consideration and the Division staff will fill these requests in a timely manner. If the request for data is denied, a letter will be sent to the researcher explaining the reason for this decision.

    All data provided are considered provisional; that is, the researcher should treat species identities or localities as unverified and subject to corrections or change over time. Therefore, it is prudent for the researcher to verify those data before publication. The MSB Division of Fishes does not take responsibility for inaccurate results or reporting due to use of museum data.

    The MSB Division of Fishes will not release the total catalogue of MSB fishes (“data dumps”) or data that are considered “sensitive.”

    Data that are actively being used in ongoing research will not be released to other researchers. Once the first study is completed and the results are published or we have received permission from the first researcher, then those data may be available for subsequent use.

    The Curator of Fishes must first approve of any involvement of the MSB Division of Fishes in data sharing for collaborative study between institutions.

    Any publication that uses MSB Division of Fishes data must acknowledge the source and submit two copies of the publication to the MSB Division of Fishes.


    IV. Collection Transactions

    Requests to use the collection must be sent to the Curator of Fishes in the form of a letter, written on institutional letterhead. Only requests from qualified researchers and students, affiliated with educational or nonprofit research institutions, are given consideration. See the following “formula” letter for an example of typical request to use the collection.

    Outgoing loans. MSB loans of specimens are available to all qualified researchers and their students conducting legitimate research. Researchers are expected to cite the catalogue numbers of MSB specimens when publishing their results. Two copies of these publications must be sent to the Division. MSB loans are granted for one year. If an extension of time for the loan is required, then the request must be sent to the Curator of Fishes. Loans may not be transferred to another researcher. The Division of Fishes can refuse to send loans of specimens to any researcher who has misrepresented themselves, their research, or has abused their loan privileges in the past. While MSB specimens are under the care of another institution, they must be maintained in the correct fluid and in optimal archival conditions.

    Destructive Sampling. Requests for loans are not carte blanche requests for destructive sampling of specimens. In the formal loan request, the researcher must specifically ask permission to dissect or remove parts from specimens. If not consumed for DNA extraction, specimen parts (e.g. stomach contents, gonads) must be put in a vial with label bearing the catalogue number and returned with the specimen.

    Transfer of specimen tissues. Tissues or whole specimens sent to researchers for genetic study will bear the MSB catalogue number. Researchers using MSB specimens for genetic analyses must submit the MSB catalogue numbers to GenBank. Two copies of the published results must be sent to the Division.

    Incoming loans. These are normally solicited by personnel in the Division or researchers who are affiliated with the Division (UNM Department of Biology, New Mexico Dept. Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and so forth). The MSB Division of Fishes takes full responsibility for the proper care and safe return of all specimen loans received by their staff and researchers affiliated with the Division. Incoming loans are not stored nor examined outside of the Division (e.g. researcher’s office or lab).

    Gifts and Exchanges. These collections are received from other museums, research institutions, or scientific expeditions. The terms of the gift or exchange must meet with the approval of the Curator of Fishes. Specimens collected without a current collection permit and/or that do not have locality information will not be accepted by the Division.

    Visitors to the Collection. Visits to the collection should be for research purposes only. Basic lab equipment is available and a reasonable amount of technical assistance can be expected from the Collection Manager. Casual visitors are not normally allowed in the Division. All visits should be set up by appointment only.

    Public inquiry. Questions regarding fishes are always welcomed by telephone (+1-505-277-6005) and email ( If the answer is not readily available, the Collection Manager will call back with references or sources of information on the subject. We welcome questions from students involved in science projects but will not design the project for them nor perform library services.

    Examination of original documents. Most of the Division’s original documents are available for examination by viewing scanned copies (pdf files) or photocopies of the documents. Once permission is granted to view documents, the researcher must visit the Division during normal operating hours. The Collection Manager will retrieve and file all documents.


    Updated: 31 January, 2008 / Alexandra M. Snyder