Destructive Sampling

Applying for permission to conduct destructive sampling

Removal and dissection of MELU specimen parts is not permitted without completing a destructive sampling request form and obtaining the signed consent of the MELU Curator.

Destructive sampling request form

Destructive Sampling Policy

MELU endeavours to support a wide range of botanical research. The collections held by the University of Melbourne Herbarium (MELU) are maintained with the goal of balancing the preservation of herbarium specimens with the need to use them for taxonomic and systematic research.

  • For the purposes of this document, destructive sampling is defined as the removal of material from a specimen for research purposes other than routine taxonomic examination.
  • For example, removal of leaf material for extraction of DNA or for phytochemical or isotope studies is regarded as destructive sampling. Dissection or removal of parts of a specimen for microscopic inspection is not, if it remains within the bounds of normal taxonomic practice.
  • Provision of a loan or physical access to specimens does not imply permission to destructively sample material. Such permission will only be granted through specific application for destructive sampling under this policy.
  • Requests for destructive sampling of specimens are considered on a case-by-case basis and according to the merits of the request.
  • Where possible, researchers must make every effort to source fresh material and request destructive sampling from herbarium specimens when there is no other option.
  • Note that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 control the movement of specimens and parts of specimens of some taxa. Specimens or samples can be sent only to registered scientific institutions.
  • General Conditions
    • Requests to destructively sample specimens are to be made in writing to the Curator of MELU. Where possible, requests to destructively sample specimens on loan should be made at the time the loan is requested.
    • For large or complicated requests, researchers are encouraged to visit the herbarium to select specimens for sampling.
    • Permission will not be granted to destructively sample from type collections or historical specimens (pre-1900) except in exceptional instances.
    • Material may be destructively sampled from a specimen only if there is adequate material available and only if the scientific integrity of the specimen is not compromised by its removal.
    • Removal of material for destructive sampling must be done under the guidance of an experienced taxonomist; students must be trained in good herbarium practice before being allowed to destructively sample from specimens.
    • Researchers must remove no more than the agreed, specified amount of material.
    • Where possible, samples should be taken from the material in fragment packets and/or from obscured portions of the specimen. Specimens with the most abundant leaf, fruit or flower material should be sampled first. Care must be taken not to damage the scientific value of the specimen
    • Material removed for destructive sampling and not used must be returned to a fragment packet on the specimen, or placed in the specimen packet, box or spirit container.
    • In general, material should not be removed from a specimen for a second time if the nature of the study is the same.
    • For each specimen from which material has been sampled, an archival-quality paper slip annotated in typescript or indelible ink (not ballpoint pen) must be attached to the sheet or packet. The annotation slip should indicate what was removed, the nature of the study, the researcher's name and institutional affiliation and the date (see below for examples).
    • Sampled material or derivatives (including aliquots, extracts, and images) must not be made available to any third parties without written permission from the Curator.
    • Sampled specimens should be cited by the specimen accession number in any resulting publication(s) and a copy of the publication(s) sent to the lending institution. The lending institution must be acknowledged in any resulting publication(s).
    • Specimens in collections may have been treated in various ways (e.g. with preservatives, sterilants, insecticides, freezing, gamma irradiation) at times. Records on the history of treatment of specimens may not be available. Material from specimens is supplied with no warranty of any kind, and the lending institution is not liable for misinterpretations or false results obtained as a result of these treatments.
  • Samples for anatomical and other studies
    • Depending on the nature of the study and the specific requirements of the institution involved, physical records derived from specimens (e.g. permanent slides, SEM stubs and/or photographs) should be returned with the loan. This material will be cross-referenced to the associated specimen and made available to other researchers upon request.
  • Samples for molecular studies
    • DNA sequence data must be lodged in a publicly accessible database (e.g. GenBank). The MELU specimen accession number (e.g. MELUD001004a) must be included with the data provided to the repository with the specimen voucher data.
    • GenBank and other accession numbers must be provided to MELU (provided in a spreadsheet or included on the annotation slip – see below for example). If retained extracts are used to sequence additional regions, the additional GenBank numbers must subsequently also be supplied to MELU.
    • Where possible, unused derived material should be returned as dried aliquots with accurate quantification indicated on the label.
  • Example annotation slips
    • Fruit removed for SEM imaging.
      C. Tauss (PERTH) 21 Jul 2011
    • Leaf material removed for DNA analysis.
      DNA isolation number: GB123
      GenBank number: AF234567
      G.K. Brown (MELU) 7 Jun 2011