Sample Preparation and Shipping FAQ

For all other shipping and packaging questions, please contact our office and we are happy to help!

1) What kind of preservative should I use?

There are 2 common preservatives used for benthic samples – 10% buffered formalin and Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol).

Formalin should be used in a 3:1 dilution of 10% buffered formalin to organic debris.
Ethanol should be used in a concentration of 70-90%, or 7:3 with 100% ethanol to organic debris.

CABIN protocol recommends an initial preservation in formalin for 72 hours then replacing the formalin with an ethanol solution >70%. This process is the most ideal and gives the best preservation of invertebrates.

Other alcohol based solvents such as isopropanol should only be used as a last resort, as they tend to make the insects brittle and do not preserve as well.

2) Once my samples are preserved how long will they last ? Should I keep them cold?

Once your samples are adequately preserved, they are able to be stored and shipped at room temperature for a number of months and can be quite stable for years – provided you are checking periodically that the preservative has not leaked from the jars.

3) What kind of sample jar should I use?

Wide mouth plastic jars are the best to use. Nalgene bottles are durable with a good sealing lid, although with repeated use may become brittle and breakable. A good semi-disposable alternative to Nalgene are the white plastic containers found from Richards Packaging ( the 500 ml jars are item # 40130015 and the self sealing lids are item # 32110667.

Please avoid using glass jars. Your samples are precious and glass can easily be damaged during shipping. We are happy to provide our clients with Richard’s 500mL sample jars to use for benthic samples for just the cost of shipping.

4) How should I label the jars?

Make sure that the sample name, number and date of collection is clearly visible on the outside of the jar. Labeling with tape allows the jar to be reused much easier than writing directly on the jars.
Every sample should also include an interior label written with pencil on heavy laser paper or waterproof paper. Exterior labels can easily become distorted or erased from ethanol leakage or fumes in the shipping container and shouldn’t be relied on.

When a sample needs to be contained in more than one jar clearly state on the COC that the sample consists of multiple jars and label the jars in sequence :
Jar 1 of 3; Jar 2 of 3; Jar 3 of 3 .. etc

5) What is the best way to ship the jars?

When shipping the jar lids can be sealed with duct or electrical tape. Parafilm or ‘Glad Stretch and Seal’ also works well to seal the jars. In addition placing the samples inside a garbage bag or inside their own individual ziplock bag inside the shipping container will also help to prevent leaks in case of breakage. Rubbermaid bins or coolers work very well for shipping, packed with absorbent material. Cardboard boxes also work, but we recommend lining the box with a garbage bag in case of leaking. Courier companies will not deliver boxes that appear wet. Ensure that jars are packed tightly and cushioned with packing material.

Please include a Chain of Custody and Project Submission form available for download here, or provided by the lab.

6) Where do I send my samples?

Samples can be shipped directly to our lab at:
Unit 1- 13216 Henry Ave.
PO Box 1202
Summerland BC
V0H 1Z0

7) What shipping company is the best?

We have had very good service from most large courier companies. We have found that sample delivery can be sometimes delayed using Greyhound and Canada Post because they do not provide door delivery to our office. They are also more hesitant to accept dangerous goods shipments.

Fedex, Purolator, Loomis, DHL and Canadian Freightways are all common shipping companies that we have used.

8) What about shipping “Dangerous Goods”?

In order to ship dangerous goods in Canada, including ethanol solutions, you should have someone in your office TDG certified through Transport Canada. Sample jars below 1L in volume will fall under the “Limited quantities” designation. That means you can ship them without being a fully regulated dangerous good. Prepare your shipping waybill as usual indicating limited quantities. On the package you will have to affix a label to the top and bottom labeling it as a limited quantity shipment. You do not need other shipping placards or UN numbers on the package. In Canada most shipments have to go by ground, if shipping my air you should contact the courier or Transport Canada for further instruction.