Explore the highlights of our department's 160-year-plus history at the California Academy of Sciences.
Search Our Collections:
- Search Invertebrate Zoology Collection
- Search Fossil Collection
- Search Meteorites Collection
- Search Diatoms Collection
- View select specimens and archives on our Flickr page
- View select Field Notes from the Invertebrate Zoology Collection
Historically, the main geographic focus of the IZ collection has been, and greatly remains, the eastern Pacific region from Alaska to the Galapagos, and the Academy maintains the most diverse known holdings of fluid and dry collections from these regions. However, significant sub-groups are now represented from the western Pacific (especially New Guinea and the Philippines), the central Pacific islands, and Antarctica. In addition, some taxa (e.g. Opisthobranchia, Octocorallia, Cirripedia, and Echinoidea) have world-wide geographic representation resulting from the activities of staff research, present and past. Recently our tropical marine collections were enhanced with the large acquisitions of specimens from coral reef habitats around the world. These additions have greatly enriched our already world-class reef invertebrate collections including sponges, coelenterates, and ascidians.
Geology as been a focus of research and collections at the Academy since its founding in 1853. The strengths of today’s fossil collection are Pacific Basin invertebrates of Mesozoic and Cenozoic age, fossil fish, and foraminifera from California and the western U.S. The mineral collection is worldwide in scope, and includes the meteorite and gemstone collections. The Academy’s diatom collection is third largest in the world (and the best documented). As most of the early specimens are fossil, it is categorized as part of our geology collections.
Specimens may be acquired by staff collecting, by exchange, or by donation. No specimens will be accessioned without adequate labeling, collection notes, field notes, or other locality information, nor without appropriate legal documentation (collecting permits, export permits from country of origin, etc.) when applicable. All such information is to be deposited simultaneously with the specimens using both internal labels and corresponding digital data sheets. Whenever possible, accessioned material should contain a sufficient number of specimens to permit destructive examination (soft anatomy dissection, shell and tissue sectioning, chemical analysis, etc.). Donations with restrictions on the use of the material are not acceptable. All specimens collected by Academy staff are sacrificed in accordance with recommended techniques to prevent suffering.
Primary acquisitions are specimens or collections obtained as part of ongoing staff research projects. For living invertebrates, this currently includes echinoids, coelenterates, gastropods, polychaetes, and barnacles. Current research on fossils includes barnacles and echinoids.
Secondary acquisitions include the following:
- Well documented specimens or collections from geographic areas or taxonomic groups that are generally well represented in the existing collections and that we wish to build upon and fill taxonomic or geographic gaps. Specimens of current research interest, provided the material is either unrepresented in the existing collections, or is judged to add significantly to the understanding of the morphology, variability, geographic distribution, or geologic range. Areas of primary geographic interest include the eastern Pacific and the Indo-Pacific tropics.
- Well documented specimens or collections of taxa or groups that are not well represented in the existing collections (as in #1 above), but judged to be useful for comparative studies. We do not accept unsorted research materials or specimens lacking collection data.
In certain cases, at the discretion of the collection manager and curators, specimens may be removed from the collection. Specimens may be deemed not appropriate for research activities if they lack locality data, are poorly preserved, or are common species thought to be overly represented in the collections.
Deaccessioned specimens may be retained for departmental teaching material, or they may be turned over to the education department for teaching. Such specimens may also be donated to other departments within the Public Programs Division.
Gifts of specimens which have not been previously deaccessioned may be made to other researchers, however the transaction must be approved by the curator in charge.
Loan Policy and Procedures
Recipient: Requests for loans must be written, and should include a description of the kind of work being done, specific requests for non-destructive or partly destructive analyses, and justification for the use of this material. All loans must be approved by a curator and collections manager. Loans may be made to qualified individuals and institutional affiliation of the borrower is a requirement for loan approval.. Loans for study by students are made only to major professors or other qualified sponsors, and study of the loaned material must be under the supervision of the sponsor. In general, loan requests for large numbers of specimens, if approved, are sent in small units.
Duration: Type specimens are loaned for three months; other loans are made for six months. Extensions may be granted on written request. A reminder is sent on the loan expiration date. Wet specimens must be re-housed in sufficient and appropriate preservative for safe storage during the loan period to prevent damage to specimens while on loan.
Costs: The Academy pays the costs of shipping loan materials and borrowers pay the costs of return shipments.
Shipping: Loan specimens are to be securely padded and packaged according to current shipping regulations and returned by trackable post or courier method at the discretion of curation staff to ensure the safety of the material during transport. Information regarding up-to-date restrictions and requirements for international loan shipments must be provided by the borrowing institution. The borrower must contact IZG staff for approval prior to shipping a loan return.
Restrictions: In general, all material is loaned for non- destructive examination. No preparation, cleaning, sectioning, or other destructive methods are allowed without written approval by curatorial staff. If such procedures are approved, duplicates of slides or other preparations made from the loan material are requested. All tissues and other mounts not destroyed by analysis must be returned with the loan.
Publication: Copies of all publications resulting from work on loaned specimens are requested for the department library.
Voucher Specimen Archival
With advanced approval, the department accepts small numbers of voucher specimens from qualified scientific researchers for archive at no charge. However, voucher specimens received from paid consultants or corporations for the purpose of validating and documenting environmental surveys will be accepted only with payment of a service charge for storage and maintenance. This fee will be set at prevailing rates for storage space, labor and supplies as calculated by the departmental staff including, but not limited to, the collection manager. All voucher specimens accepted from commercial enterprises will be stored for a predetermined time period at the end of which the specimens may be retained or disposed of at the discretion of the departmental staff.
These databases and all images within them are owned and copyrighted by the California Academy of Sciences, ©2017, or licensed to it. The data and images may be used freely by individuals and organizations for purposes of basic research, education and conservation. These data and images may not be used for commercial or for-profit purposes without the express written consent of the California Academy of Sciences, and may not be repackaged, resold, or redistributed in any form.
Use of the data or images in publications, dissertations and theses, or other scientific reports, should be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology, California Academy of Sciences, as the source for the information. Please provide the Department with pdfs of articles resulting from the use of these data, specimens and associated tissues, or images. This helps us to document the use of specimens as “vouchers” in the literature. It also helps us to justify continued funding for the collections so that these resources remain available into the future.
Where can I go to collect minerals or fossils? Who can borrow specimens from the IZG collections? Are IZG specimens on exhibit at the Academy? The answers to these and other frequently asked questions can be found via the link below.
Historical specimen data are utilized by scientists and habitat managers in a wide variety of ways to document biodiversity and to inform conservation efforts. As a Community Scientist, you can help mobilize important "hidden" historical data from specimen labels! Check out the Notes from Nature – Invertebrate Time Machine for more information.
Since 1854, the Scientific Publications Department at the California Academy of Sciences has published a vast amount of scientific literature representing an array of natural history disciplines.