Submitting Samples

Submitting specimens, tissues, or DNA

Thank you for participating in PorToL. If you have not already done so, please ensure that you have read and understand the PorToL Policy on Data Ownership and please contact Bob Thacker.

Overview of the process of submitting samples

A) Complete PorToL Submission Form (Excel spreadsheet) and email it to Bob Thacker and Allen Collins;
B) For any specimens going to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), please complete a Deed of Gift (Word document);
C) Mail the samples to the appropriate laboratory.
D) Share additional information about the specimens (permits, images, etc.), as appropriate.

A) PorToL Submission Form
In order to maximize the utility of data generated from specimens, it is imperative that our system keeps track of specimen-level data. For PorToL purposes, a specimen is any sponge sample or sponge sub-sample. For example, a morphological voucher is a separate specimen from either a tissue subsample or a genomic DNA extract. The PorToL database is adhering to current standards for biodiversity databases, known as Darwin Core 2.

The Excel Submission File has 5 different sheets: 1) Field Descriptions; 2) Fields Example; 3) Submission Example; 4) Your Submission Vert; and 5) Your Submission Horiz.

  1. “Field Descriptions” contains descriptions of all fields in the PorToL specimens database. A subset of these fields are generated by the PorToL database or other PorToL personnel.
  2. “Fields Example” contains example entries of the full database for one hypothetical example of Xestospongia bocatorensis.
  3. “Submission Example” shows the subset of those fields that would be provided by the submitter.
  4. “Your Submission Vert” and “Your Submission Horiz” are the sheets into which you can add the data associated with the samples that you are incorporating into PorToL. ONLY ONE of these two sheets needs to be filled out; we are just providing options for users who have a preference for working with columns or rows of data. Please only enter data on one of the “Your Submission” worksheets and do not change or edit the Field Names.
  5. Please email the completed form, along with any suggestions or questions to Bob Thacker and Allen Collins.

B) Smithsonian NMNH Deed of Gift
Any samples (vouchers, tissues, or DNA extracts) that will be processed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, require a completed “Deed of Gift” form. Please fill out the form and submit along with any specimens shipped to the Smithsonian. One can write “See attached detailed list” on the form if such a list is provided. Also note that the language describing rights transfer along with the material does not supersede or impinge on the PorToL Policy on Data Ownership.

C) Mailing Specimens
In general, most specimens will be handled at the Smithsonian (e.g., for museum vouchering, routine DNA extractions, and sequencing of standard markers such as COI, 16S, 28S, 18S, etc.). Please mail these specimens to:
Allen Collins
C/O Paul Greenhall (301-238-1758)
Smithsonian Institution,
Dept. of Invertebrate Zoology,
4210 Silver Hill Road,
Suitland MD 20746
Phone: 301-238-1758

International shipments must clear US Customs. In order to facilitate delivery of international shipments, please include a cover letter. You can download and edit a sample letter to accompany international shipments. After editing as appropriate, please print on your letterhead, sign, and affix the letter to the outside of the box so that the box does not have to be opened unnecessarily.

The Lopez, Hill, Peterson, and Lavrov labs will be amplifying different markers (nuclear house-keeping genes, complete mitochondrial genomes) for Tier 1 species, so specimens will sometimes be sent directly to their labs.

D) Providing Additional Information
Permits: PorToL and the U.S. National Science Foundation respect international laws. We therefore request and archive copies of the appropriate collection and/or export permits for each specimen. Please send Bob Thacker ( copies of your permits.

Images: We aim to share in situ images of specimens, as well as images of spicule preparations and histological sections for as many specimens as possible. If you can provide these images, please enter the file name(s) or “to be provided”. We encourage all participants and collaborators of PorToL to sign up and contribute to the Porifera LifeDesk, where such images can be uploaded and shared.

Sequences: If you have already generated DNA sequence data for a specimen, please enter the file name(s) of the appropriate sequence chromatogram(s) (e.g., .abi or .scf file). We can incorporate these directly in the PorToL database if you send them to Bob Thacker (email:

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