The role of voucher specimens in validating faunistic and ecological research

Preparation and Deposition of Vouchers

Detailed guidelines and recommendations on the collection, preparation and labelling of specimens are available in a number of publications (e.g., Martin 1977, Huber 1998, Wheeler et al. 2001) so that information is not repeated here. It must be emphasized that the use of the term “voucher specimens” throughout this document should be taken to mean “properly prepared, properly labelled voucher specimens”. Poorly prepared specimens are of little or no use to other researchers, especially in the long term, and it is not the responsibility of museum staff to correct oversights and shortcuts of other workers.

In order to ensure long-term care and maintenance of voucher specimens, and to facilitate access by the research community, the specimens must be deposited in a recognized natural history collection. Indeed, one of the major roles of natural history collections is to ensure that such specimens are made available for study and for use in subsequent research projects, such as systematic revisions or studies of long term patterns of change in arthropod communities (Danks et al. 1987, Wiggins et al. 1991, Danks and Winchester 2000, Ponder et al. 2001, Favret and DeWalt 2002). Each collection has its own policies on voucher specimens. For example, some museums add distinguishing labels to vouchers in order to link the specimen to a particular study while others (usually smaller collections) may simply incorporate vouchers into the main research collection and rely on the specimens’ collection label to associate them with the study. With the increase in specimen-level databases using barcodes or unique identifier codes associated with each specimen, vouchers can be identified as such in the museum’s database, with additional data fields linking the specimen to the original study.

Page updated on Feb 23, 2014