Shipping information and details

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Jellyfish samples are necessarily preserved in 2-4% formalin (for morhpological analyses) and 95% ethanol (for DNA analyses*). Both formalin and ethanol are hazardous substances and therefore must be shipped with appropriate precaution. If shipping samples in jars full of preservative, the only way to ship them is to use couriers such as FedEx, DHL, and UPS which will deal with the packages as hazardous materials. Obviously, this is very expensive because [1] such packages are large and/or heavy due to all the preservative, [2] they receive special handling, and [3] it's a door-to-door service. Fortunately, it is usually possible to send samples preserved in 4% formalin or 95% ethanol through the regular postal service as long as their rules are followed (USPS). In my experience, most clerks at the post office are not familiar with the regulations regarding sending such substances through the mail (the usual response is that you cannot do it at all), so it is best to read the regulations yourself; usually you'll find that it's OK to send very small quantities if they're packaged accordingly. A method for packing and shipping samples that I learned from Lori J. Bell (and which she had learned from someone else) is explained below. We have never had any problem with this method.


Shipping tissues preserved in ethanol for DNA analysis.

Materials required:

  • 2 ml vial with a screw-cap and o-ring containing preservative and tissue
  • waterproof paper and pencils
  • whirl-pak bag or box of appropriate size, one 30 cm x 60 cm '4 mil' plastic bag
  • paper towel (or other absorbant material)
  • rubber bands
  • ziplock bags
  • letter (declare there is no comercial value, number of  samples, their origin, their destination, contact information)
  • copies of permits
  • padded envelope.

Procedure:

  1. Make sure the cap is screwed on firmly, with a label. Be sure to write the label in waterproof paper and pencil (Ethanol will dissolve the ink of permanent markers).
  2. Place into the whirl-pak bag or box. Vials should be wrapped in small groups and wrapped with packaging tape. This makes one single unit out of many and will prevent movement and collision during shipping, seal the bag.
  3. Put into the 4-mil plastic bag including the paper towel, twist the neck of the plastic bag until it is tightly coiled, bend the coil back on itself, and secure with 2 rubber bands.
  4. Double wrap the vials or box with zip lock bags.
  5. Place in the padded envelope along with the letter and copies of permits.
  6. Seal, label, and airmail it.

NOTES

The shipments of samples preserved in ethanol are regulated by the Department of Transportation. Shipping ethanol in limited quantities is allowed in almost all the commercial couriers following the next regulations:
1. Each pack of vials cannot exceed 1 liter each.
2. Shipment must be packed in strong, tight and secure containers.
3. Shipments must contain enough absorbent material (pads, cotton, etc.).
4. Total package weight cannot exceed 30 kg.
5. Shipping label:Limited quantity, ethanol, 3, UN1170, PG II.


Shipping tissues preserved in formalin for morphological analyses.

Materials required:

  • preserved sample
  • whirl-pak bag of appropriate size
  • three 30 cm x 60 cm '4 mil' plastic bags
  • paper towel (or other absorbant material)
  • rubber bands
  • plenty of packing peanuts (not the corn ones that dissolve when wet) or other any other kind of protected material
  • two cardboard boxes (the smallest should have plenty of space for the specimens, and also fit comfortably inside the larger box) or styrofoam coolers

Procedure:

Jellyfish should be pack in plastic bags or plastic containers with tap water. FORMALIN is prohibited for almost all the worldwide courier companies, including post office and airlines cargo.

  1. Carefully transfer the specimen into the whirl-pak bag if it was storage in jar. For speciemns in plastic bags, drain all the formalin.
  2. Place a pad of cotton moisturized with tap water in the bottom of the bag.
  3. Carefully remove the air  from the whirl-pak bag without damaging the specimen, and seal the bag as was explained in the preservation of medusae section.
  4. Put the whirl-pak bag into one of the 4-mil plastic bags and include some of the paper towel. Twist the neck of the plastic bag until it is tightly coiled, bend the coil back on itself, and secure with one of the rubber bands.
  5. Place this bag into the second of the 4-mil plastic bags, include some of the paper towel, remove excess air, twist the neck of the plastic bag until it is tightly coiled, bend the coil back on itself, and secure with one of the rubber bands.
  6. Now place this bag into the third of the 4-mil plastic bags, include some of the paper towel, remove excess air, twist the neck of the plastic bag until it is tightly coiled, bend the coil back on itself, and secure with one of the rubber bands.

  1. Put a layer of peanuts on the bottom of the smaller box, put the bag(s) in the box, placing the heaviest and bigger organisms at the bottom and the lighter and smaller on the top. and fill with peanuts.
  2. Seal the box. Put a layer of peanuts on the bottom of the larger box, put the smaller box in the larger box, and fill with peanuts.
  3. Place the letter and copies of permits on top of the peanuts.
  4. Seal the box, label, and airmail it.




  • A relatively benign, good, alternative to 95% ethanol is DMSO+NaCl (see Dawson et al. 1998)


Please send all samples through airmail at room temperature to:


Dr. Michael Dawson
School of Natural Sciences
University of California at Merced
5200 North Lake Road
Merced, CA 95340 USA