Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box

Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Amphibians & Reptiles

Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum
Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum Ecuador, Napo Province. Photographed by Roy McDiarmid

Acquisition Policy 

New collections are accepted on authority of the Research Curators (Bell and de Queiroz). Acceptance of new collections requires:

  1. Approval of at least one of the Research Curators.
  2. Documentation that material was obtained in compliance with all international, national, state, and local laws and regulations that apply.
  3. Documentation that NMNH will acquire legal title to the material without restriction. Material for which legal title cannot be fully relinquished to NMNH (e.g. US National Parks) or with restrictions or limitations on use will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

When possible, the division requests a copy of the relevant pages of the field catalog, field journal, and other pertinent documentation (e.g., maps) concurrent with receipt of the collection.

Collections Standards

Researchers planning to deposit field-collected research material in the Division should refer to the following standards and/or consult with at least one of the Research Curators prior to commencing research. The Division follows McDiarmid (1994) and Gotte et al. (2016) for standards in collecting specimens of amphibians and reptiles, respectively. Briefly, this includes detailed field notes (collection data including locality, microhabitat and natural history information), tissue samples (see NMNH Biorepository Standards), and formalin-fixed or dry (e.g., osteological or skin) morphological specimens. A sample excel spreadsheet with data fields and standards is available upon request. Our database system accommodates multimedia files and we strongly encourage researchers to photograph specimens to document coloration and to collect recordings of advertisement calls when possible.

The Division accepts three main varieties of collections resulting from field expeditions:

  1. Traditional morphological specimens (including osteological and cleared-and-stained preparations) with or without associated tissue samples for genetic research. The Division also accepts microbiome samples (e.g., epithelial or gut microbial samples), parasites, and gut contents associated with traditional morphological specimens.
  2. Tissue samples collected from a traditional morphological specimen that is deposited in another research museum or institution. In cases where the morphological specimen and associated tissue sample will be deposited in separate institutions, the Division requires full field data (as described above) and the catalogue number OR complete catalogue data for the morphological voucher. The Division strongly advocates for (but does not require) photographs of the morphological specimen in these cases.
  3. Tissue samples collected without a traditional morphological specimen (e.g. toe clips, tail clips, blood samples). In cases where a tissue sample is collected without a morphological specimen, the Division requires full field data as described above and high quality photographs (dorsal, ventral, and lateral surfaces and any distinguishing features) of the individual from which the tissue sample was obtained.

Deviations from these collection standards do not preclude the Division from accepting new material but will require additional consultation with the Research Curators.  

The Division also manages a variety of materials integral to documentation and use of the research collections including field notes and maps, original illustrations, prints, sonograms, radiographs, histological slides, and reprints. Researchers planning to deposit these types of research materials in the Division should consult with at least one of the Research Curators regarding the scope and nature of the collection.


McDiarmid, R.W. (1994). Preparing amphibians as voucher specimens. In R.W. Heyer, M.A. Donnelly, R.W. McDiarmid, et al. (eds) Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity: Standard Methods for Amphibians. Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 289–97.

Gotte, S. W., J. F. Jacobs, G. R. Zug. 2016. Preserving reptiles for research. In C. K. Dodd, Jr. (ed) Reptile Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press, pp. 73­–86.


(July 2018)