A growing number of domestic and international legal issues are confronting biodiversity collections, which require immediate access to information documenting the legal aspects of specimen ownership and restrictions regarding use. The Nagoya Protocol, which entered into force in 2014, established a legal framework for access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources and has notable implications for collecting, researchers working with specimens, and biodiversity collections. Herein, we discuss how this international protocol mandates operating changes within US biodiversity collections. Given the new legal landscape, it is clear that digital solutions for tracking records at all stages of a specimen's life cycle are needed. We outline how the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) has made changes to its procedures and museum-wide database, MCZbase (an independent instance of the Arctos collections management system), linking legal compliance documentation to specimens and transactions (i.e., accessions, loans). We used permits, certificates, and agreements associated with MCZ specimens accessioned in 2018 as a means to assess a new module created to track compliance documentation, a controlled vocabulary categorizing these documents, and the automatic linkages established among documentation, specimens, and transactions. While the emphasis of this work was a single year test case, its successful implementation may be informative to policies and collection management systems at other institutions.

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Author notes

Associate Editor.—Genevieve Tocci