Bringing Your Specimens

Training visitors are encouraged to bring their own specimens for processing during the course. This allows them to relate the acquired hands-on experience in the various stages of DNA barcoding (imaging, tissue sampling, DNA extraction, PCR, etc.) to their specific group of interest. It is strongly recommended that the number of specimens is either 95 or 190, to make full use of the capacity of microplates – standard sampling arrays used in our facility.

Please note that the collection of biological specimens and their transfer across national borders is strictly regulated by regional and national authorities and by international treaties (e.g., national ministries of natural resources, quarantine inspection agencies, CITES, the Nagoya Protocol, etc.). It is critical that any transaction of biological samples follows all applicable regulations. The Research Training Program is committed to respecting and following Canadian laws, international treaties, institutional policies, and general best practices pertaining to intellectual property and biological material transfer (including genetic resources) as they relate to international collaboration and cross-border transfer of specimens.

Quantity of samples:

Samples are processed in arrays compatible with 96-well plates (95 samples per plate). Typically, the course schedule allows to process an average of one plate of samples per participant.

As part of the training exercise, we will practice arraying samples into plates, therefore your specimens do not have to be arrayed. You can bring them in the form of lots (batches of multiple uncounted specimens) or individually labeled.

Types of samples that could be processed during the course:

  • If working with Malaise traps: you can bring the contents of one collecting jar with fluid-preserved specimens.
  • If working with small organisms (invertebrates): bring properly labelled whole organisms (if size allows).
  • If working with large organisms (most vertebrates, some invertebrates): place a piece of tissue into a properly labelled tube, from which we can then subsample.
  • If working with plants: place a small (ca. 1 cm) piece of desiccated leaf in an envelope.

Please note that each ‘sample’ (bulk jar or individual specimen) has to be individually labeled and contain digitized (preferred) or otherwise easily recoverable provenance information (collecting locality, date, collector, etc). It is also ideal (although not necessary) to have the specimens identified, at least to genus level.

Also please note that not all taxa can be processed in the same plate, due to possible differences in DNA extraction protocols, PCR primers, and reaction parameters. If you plan to analyze together specimens from different families, orders, or higher taxa, please let us know so we could make suggestions on the best way to assemble complementary samples.

Type of preservation:

Your specimens should be recently collected (not older than 3-5 years) and fixed or preserved in a DNA-friendly fashion. For most organisms, either dry (desiccated) or ethanol (~95%) preservation is optimal. If unsure about the suitability of your samples for high-throughput DNA extraction procedures, please do not hesitate to ask us.

NOTE: Any collection materials, either shipped or hand-carried, must comply with relevant regulations for shipping dangerous goods. This particularly concerns ethanol-preserved specimens and samples. The amount of ethanol per container should not exceed 30 mL and the total amount of ethanol you are carrying in all of your containers should not exceed 1 L. The best way to achieve this is to pour out excessive ethanol shortly before transport. It can be replenished shortly upon your arrival. Please refer to specialized resources for specific details.

Home country export regulations:

Make sure to check the regulations of your home country, as well as other jurisdictions (e.g., provincial) as they relate to the collection and export of biological specimens and genetic resources. Please note that regulation may differ, depending on the place of origin, year of collection, taxonomic group, form of preparation, etc. It is critical that your samples are exported and imported in full compliance with all applicable regulations. Upon completion of the training course, residual specimens and genomic DNA will either be returned with the provider (you would take them back with you) or destroyed, depending on your preference or the requirements of the permitting authority.

For logistical simplicity, please ensure that none of your specimens are CITES-listed. Also please ensure that there are no third-party restrictions/obligations that would impact your ability to export these samples.

Home institution regulations:

Consult the policies of your home institution related to international and inter-institutional transfers of biological materials.

96-well plate

96-well plate


Malaise trap catch in a lot jar

Malaise trap catch in a lot jar


Hazardous properties and import requirements:

Please note that our facility is not equipped to process samples possessing hazardous properties. Your samples must contain only dead tissue and must be free from any hazardous biological or chemical contaminants. All biological materials entering Canada must comply with import requirements set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA has an Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) that should be consulted to ensure that the samples you plan to bring to Canada meet the necessary requirements.

During the enrolment process, please let the training program coordination team know if you are considering bringing your own samples, so that we may prepare for your arrival ahead of time. Please indicate what kind of samples you plan to bring, and feel free to ask questions about Canadian import regulations for biological materials. If you are unable or do not wish to bring your own specimens, please indicate if you have a preference for the types of materials that you would like us to secure for you to process during your stay. Note that certain taxonomic groups and types of samples may not be available for analysis.

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