User Policy

The Microscopy and Imaging Facility operates normally from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, on the American Museum of Natural History calendar. During that time all activity is supervised, and the Laboratory Staff are available to assist in use of any instrument in the lab.

It is AMNH policy that the MIF does not charge users. There are no costs for MIF resource usage.


1. MIF Approved Users, Categories of Privileges:

The CT Core schedule is from 9am to 6pm, and after hours is from 6pm to 8am. Your lab time is expected to end at 6pm unless you have requested an evening scan in advance and it does not interfere with other users.

Available weekdays in excess of your normal allowed time can be booked 48 hours before.  

For purposes of machine maintenance, a number of Discretionary Days are scheduled and appear in red on the calendar week or day view. During these periods, usage may be limited or unavailable, at the discretion of MIF Staff. Time slots still available 48 hours beforehand may be reserved on a first come, first served basis BY EMAIL ONLY: send an email to [email protected].

Categories of Users

There are 3 categories of users eligible for ALL MIF resources. Below we describe the limitations in place for CT scheduling only; the other Microscopes or PCs are all evenly scheduled and do not have scaling systems of allowances. If you do not fall into one of the categories below, you do not qualify for MIF access.

Category 1: AMNH Curatorial Staff  

(i) Curators are allowed 2 CT days per month. One "day" is equal to 9 hours of scheduled time on Calpendo. Full days of 9 hours are the default period of time for booking.

(ii) Curator scheduling opens at 12:00 pm noon on the 1st business day of the month. For example, if April 1st is on a Sunday, booking would open at noon on April 2.

(iii) Curators may book blocks of 3 months that start the month following the current month. For example, starting on April 1st (through April 30) you may book May, June, and July.

(iv) Curators may sponsor Category 3 users, or donate their time to a student. When a curator is donating time, the recipient of your time should make the booking in Calpendo themself, and indicate the curator as the "Owner" on the CT booking form.

Category 2:     

  • AMNH Scientific Staff 
  • Graduate students and Postdoctoral Fellows sponsored through the AMNH Richard Gilder Graduate School 
  • Formal AMNH Research Associates 

(i) Category 2 are allowed 1 CT day per month. One "day" is equal to 9 hours of scheduled time on Calpendo. Full days of 9 hours are the default period of time for booking.

(ii) Scheduling opens at 12:00 pm noon on the 1st business day of the month. For example, if April 1st is on a Sunday, booking would open at noon on April 2.

(iii) Category 2 may book blocks of 2 months that start the month following the current month. For example, starting on April 1st (through April 30) you may book May and June. 

Category 3: Visiting Scientists, or other external collaborators

Category 3 do not qualify for privileges and their time must be sponsored by a Category 1 user; sponsorship requires that Category 1 users relinquish their machine time allotment for such use and schedule the Visiting Scientist in their name. Category 1 users may not sponsor usage by non-approved users (anyone not within Category 2 or 3). ONLY CURATORS can sponsor other users.

External researchers otherwise do not qualify for MIF privileges.


2. Usage Request

If you have not been to the MIF or used a particular instrument before, please contact MIF staff before attempting to make an appointment. This is both to ensure your project is feasible and to determine what resources might be needed.

Acceptable usage is defined as use related to the scientific research of the investigator; usage requests for commercial purposes are not accepted. It is also expected that users acknowledge usage of AMNH research facilities in any and all publications resulting from that usage, and provide reprints of those publications to the MIF. Publication acknowledgment guidelines are on the Calpendo site.

Users submitting grants that involve extensive use of MIF equipment or resources are requested to contact the Dean of Science in advance of submission. Grant budgets should account for reimbursement in kind for anticipated consumables and supplies. Disproportionate use of MIF equipment and facilities at the detriment to other users is subject to review and approval by the Dean of Science.

3. Equipment Reservation Policy

The LSCM, EVO60, Hitachi and Nikon may not be booked more than 2 months ahead of intended use.

Users who require exceptionally long contiguous blocks of time for their work (especially users traveling from a distance) or who must book more than two months in advance should contact the Laboratory Staff so that the necessary time may be reserved.
During periods of high usage, the number of time slots available to any one investigator may be restricted and subject to the following rules. Extra time is available in the evenings and weekends for approved operators only (see point 5).

  • SEMs, Confocal, Nikon, Workstations

(i) No more than two days may be booked in any 14 day period.

  • CPD, Sputter Coater, Specimen Preparation Facilities

At times of high usage the number of time slots available to any one investigator is subject to the following rules:
(i) No more than two days may be booked within any 14 day period.

  • Printing Facilities

Printing facilities are available only to Scientific Staff for AMNH research purposes.
Laser printers: Available on a first come first serve basis. Please email [email protected] if you need this service.
Large Format Plotter: Users must make an appointment at least 2 weeks in advance in order to use the poster printer. We HIGHLY recommend that the user not leave the appointment until the last day before leaving, in case of any issues. Email posters to [email protected] 24 hours in advance, no exceptions.

The policy is one poster per person, per booking. During times of high request (before highly attended conferences), please be aware that we may not have availability to accommodate all requests and may require the researcher to seek poster printing alternatives. The maximum dimensions of the poster can be 44"x 60". Reprints of posters will only be done in the case of print issues or failure.

Loss of Scheduled Time
 When a user’s scheduled time is lost due to equipment malfunction or other unforeseeable circumstances, it is difficult to directly compensate those users without negatively affecting other scheduled users. However, the MIF is committed to actively working with affected users in an effort to maintain the continuity of their research. On an individual user basis, discretionary time will be allocated when possible. Where warranted, scheduled time may be increased during a future session. If a user does not show up for their scheduled appointment by noon, the time will be ceded at the discretion of the MIF Staff.

Cancellation policy for Laboratory use

The MIF is open for use beginning at 8:30 am. If you are running late, you are requested to phone and indicate that you will be late, but intend on still using your reserved instrument. Email staff as soon as you know you will be late or have to cancel. Failure to do so by noon on your reserved day will result in cancellation of the scheduled time without warning and will be used by another investigator at the discretion the MIF staff.

4. Before you come to the lab

When scheduling time, please make sure to ask any questions regarding sample preparation, access to the MIF, data management, or anything else you will need to know beforehand.
Common preparation issues include: coating, critical point drying, mounting, sample borrowing, specimen preservation, and transport. Please discuss these with the staff if you are unsure if your samples should require it.

NEW! Before your CT appointment: all users must provide detailed instructions in advance for the specimens they intend to have scanned on their CT day. Instructions can be left in the description box of their booking request in Calpendo, or emailed to [email protected] the day before. Information that the staff are looking for are: preference of quality vs quantity (if bringing multiple specimens), minimum or ideal resolution range, target scanning area, copying previous scan parameters, etc. If you do not have any specifics in mind, please describe the goals for the data so that we can make educated judgements about your scans. YOUR CT APPOINTMENT WILL NOT BEGIN UNLESS THE STAFF HAVE INSTRUCTIONS TO REVIEW.

Please note: As of January 2017, all Paleontology specimens scanned must go through that departments collections staff first. Once the loan is approved, specimens will be packed according to Paleontology guidelines, and individual scans will be recorded through an online form.

5. Supervision and after-hours access

Users are required to be supervised by MIF staff until such time as proficiency and skill has been adequately demonstrated. 
Users will be granted after-hours privileges by MIF Staff on a case-by-case basis and after user knowledge and skill has been demonstrated. When a user is scheduled they may not be accompanied by any other visitors or researchers not previously approved by MIF. Weekend access should be treated as a privilege and is for users demonstrating trustworthiness.

  • Use after hours

   Use after hours is only approved by users who have been trained BY MIF STAFF. Training by other users is NOT accepted. 

   It is the responsibility of all investigators to ensure that the equipment they use is left ready for the next investigator at the end of their session. Rooms and equipment must be left clean, tidy and operational. 
   In the case of equipment malfunction after hours, users must contact one of the MIF staff immediately. A list of phone numbers is located on the whiteboard in each room. 
   In the case of damage caused by negligent use or unapproved use, the cost of the repair will be charged to the department of the individual who caused the damage, and future use will be supervised. 

Users are expected to leave the instrument in satisfactory condition for MIF staff during work hours. With regards to the CT machine, this includes allowing the duty cycle to complete cool-down by 9am.

  • Keys 

   Keys are available for nightly sign-out to approved users for after-hours access to the MIF, and for other locked resources as required. Please arrange to check out a key from the MIF Staff on the afternoon of after-hours work. Keys must be returned and signed-in the following morning. In the case of weekend and holiday access, keys may only be signed out in the afternoon of the last day of business and must be returned the morning of the next business day. If you do not pick up a key, please inform the MIF staff. Security will not grant you access to the lab without a phone call to an MIF staff member. 

   Keys must never be passed to a third party. MIF Staff should be notified immediately if a key is lost. 


  • Security after hours 

AMNH Policy is that doors remained closed after hours. Please only open the door you are in need of, and close it when you depart the lab (for any reason). If you are the last person to leave the MIF at the end of the day please ensure: 

  • -All the lights in the area you were working in are turned off 
  • -Any gas cylinders you may have used are off 
  • -The doors to your work area and the main entrance are locked behind you.


6. Level of support

The main functions of the MIF staff are to maintain the MIF facilities, train new investigators, develop new techniques and support ongoing research projects at the AMNH. MIF staff cannot act exclusively as research support staff for individual investigators, unless otherwise agreed upon.
It is important that the investigator and the MIF staff understand the aims and scope of a project before commencing work. It is the responsibility of the investigator to ensure that the instrumentation and protocol are appropriate for their specimens and will provide the answers they seek. In the case where this information is unknown to the investigator, the MIF staff can assist the investigator to make a determination.
MIF staff are focused on assisting instrument use. Assistance regarding sample prep, post-processing, and after hours assistance is limited and should be requested by email beforehand.

7. Sample Preparation and Storage

Users are expected to prepare, properly label, and otherwise safeguard their own samples in an appropriate manner. The safekeeping and storage of samples is the sole responsibility of users. To maintain an orderly work environment, the only samples that are permitted in the MIF are those which will be examined in a given analysis session. At the end of an analysis session, or within 1-2 business days, all samples must be promptly removed from the laboratory. The MIF is not equipped or secured for long term specimen storage.

Users are invited to utilize our facilities for sample preparation prior to scheduled sessions. For hazardous chemicals and hood use, please reach out to MIF staff in advance to ensure sufficient stock is in place, and that your work can be safely completed, stored and disposed of. All hazardous chemical work taking place within the lab should be done with the guidance of the MIF staff.

Specimen preparation resources include: Critical Point Dryer, Au-Pd/C Sputter Coater, Desiccation, Fume Hood, Freezers, Refrigeration, Iodine/PTA/Osmium Staining.

8. Data Management

All users are responsible for the saving, storage or backup of any data obtained using MIF equipment. Users should allocate the appropriate amount of time at the end of each imaging session for that purpose. Data may be retrieved from MIF computers and servers through user-supplied external hard drives. Since digital imaging often requires GBs worth of data, users should be prepared to manage large amounts of image data. The MIF has limited storage space.
It is advisable for users to wait until they have the data transferred to another computer and confirmed that the data is uncorrupted. For users using hard drives to transfer data, every effort should be made to confirm that their drives are free of computer viruses prior to use.
Users are responsible for their own data retrieval and for the security of their own data.

CT data are stored locally on the Reconstruction PC for one weeks' time, and then they are moved to the archive. Please ensure your CT data are reconstructed promptly so that the raw data can be transferred off to the MIF DTN.