Value and impacts of collecting vertebrate voucher specimens, with guidelines for ethical collection

Nick Clemannnn, Karen M.C. Rowe, Kevin C. Rowe, Tarmo Raadik, Martin Gomon, Peter Menkhorst, Joannnna Sumner, Diannnne Bray, Mark Norman, Jane Melville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Museum collections of preserved faunal specimens are immensely valuable resources for understanding the natural world, and such understanding has a crucial role to play during the current biodiversity extinction crisis. Collections of specimens, and the benefits accrued by collections, are not static; new and fresh specimens, or specimens from uncollected localities or of differing demographics, are always needed. Despite this, resistance to collecting specimens is mounting, as is an erroneous belief that modern techniques (such as molecular analyses) and technologies (such as digital cameras and tracking devices) negate the need to collect specimens. Contemporary technology sometimes facilitates a reduction in the number of voucher specimens that need to be collected, but it does not eliminate the need to collect. Concerns about animal rights have and will continue to play a crucial and desirable role in rectifying unnecessarily poor treatment of fauna, but we believe that judicious collection of specimens is at times a higher priority than preserving the life of every possible individual. We argue that museum collections provide essential verifiable evidence of species’ occurrence over time and space, and thus permit rigorous taxonomic, biological and ecological investigations. The value of specimen data for these studies today and for the decades and centuries that follow, justifies the judicious collecting of specimens. Using local examples, we demonstrate the benefits provided by specimens, the need for continued collecting in Victoria, and a framework with which to guide the decision-making process for the collection of vertebrate specimens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-153
Number of pages13
JournalMemoirs of Museum Victoria
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Fauna
  • Museum
  • Natural history collections
  • Victoria
  • Voucher specimen

Cite this