NYBG Instructions for Specimen Shipping

We have developed the following guidelines for preparing and documenting shipments of lichen and bryophyte specimens to The New York Botanical Garden for digitization for the Lichen-Bryophyte TCN Project.  The goal is to make the transfer of specimens for this project as accurate and efficient as possible, and to minimize the amount of time that the specimens are away from their home institutions.

Preparation of specimens for shipment:

Barcoding of specimens

As soon as the project barcodes have been received at New York, we will distribute these to each institution. 

All specimens sent to New York for digitization should be barcoded in advance by the home institution.  The barcodes should be positioned so they are visible without opening the packet or any  packet flaps, and make sure that there is a white border of at least ¼” inch around the barcode lines – generally the barcode labels have at least this much of a border  on the label itself.  The barcodes should be applied in numerical sequence within a species, preferably within a genus.  Some institutions have collections both mounted on sheets and as individual specimens – these should be barcoded in series within the type of preparation, but not across preparation types.  In other words, barcode all the specimens of Bryum argenteum mounted on sheets in sequence, and barcode all specimens of Bryum argenteum on packets in sequence, but the sequence doesn’t have to  be continuous across mounted and non-mounted specimens.

Spreadsheet inventory of shipments

A spreadsheet should accompany the shipment of specimens that includes the following information: barcode number, preparation type (packet or sheets), genus, species, subspecific  taxon.  If you use Excel or comparable spreadsheet software, you can use functions provided with the software to advance the barcode number automatically and copy data from the preceding entry.   

Below is a mock up of the spreadsheet columns with made- up sample data:

Barcode number

Prep. Type (mounted or packeted, if herbarium has both)

“Filed as” Genus

“Filed as” species

Subspecific qualifier  (if present)

Subspecific name (if present)




















The names used in the genus and species columns should be those under which the specimens are filed in your herbarium.   The spreadsheet will be used not only to create the skeletal data records for your specimens, but will also serve as inventory control, which will facilitate the checking in and out of specimens when they are sent out and received. The time you take to make the list will be largely offset by the time you will save counting and re-counting specimens pre-shipment and and post return , or, heaven forbid, figuring out where the discrepancy is, if these counts don’t match!

Specimens mounted on herbarium sheets should be placed in thin paper folders labeled with the genus and species name – including the barcode range on the folder is helpful, though not required.  For maximum protection of the specimens, folders should be grouped in 12—16 inch bundles that are sandwiched between corrugates and tied with two evenly-spaced strings.  Bundles should be placed in 12—20 inch high new boxes with a bursting strength of 275 lbs. (approx.).  We will use these same materials to return the specimens to their home institutions.

Specimens not mounted on sheets (that is, loose packets) can be prepared in one of two ways:

Line up in species and barcode order in cardboard trays that fit comfortably inside your shipping boxes.  Use some kind of marker indicating the “filed as” name for each species.  This marker is ideally a differently-colored piece of stiff paper or cardboard cut to the size of the packets that has the species name on it and marks the beginning of the sequence specimens with that “filed as” name.  The trays can be stacked inside each box, but should be separated by corrugates to prevent damage to packets.

Bundled using paper such as unprinted newsprint in groups of 5 – 10 specimens each, with each bundle labeled with the “filed as” name.  This method is a bit more time-consuming, but will contain the specimen contents, and reduce the potential of   contamination, should specimen fragments or dirt fall out of the packets during transfer.

Transaction Management:  We have decided to create a new transaction category for the shipments we receive of specimens for digitization.  We will call these “Incoming Loans for Digitization.”  Unlike other incoming loans to NYBG, these will not be assigned to a particular researcher.  All loans for digitization should be addressed to:


Dr. Barbara Thiers

Director, William and Lynda Steere Herbarium

The New York Botanical Garden

2900 Southern Blvd

Bronx, NY 10458-5126


LOAN OF [Bryophytes] [Lichens] FOR DIGITIZATION



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation grant ADBC#1115116. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or
recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.