1. Home>
  2. Research & Collections>
  3. Collections>
  4. Online Collection Data>
  5. Help—Search Our Collections

Help—Search Our Collections

Return to Search Our Collections.

The Canadian Museum of Nature collection database contains specimen data from the collections of each of the museum's four major disciplines:

  • Botany
  • Palaeobiology
  • Mineralogy
  • Zoology.

Terms and conditions for using our collection data.

Phycology Collection Data

Collection data from the museum's National Phycology Collection of Canada is accessible through a different database: www.nature-cana.ca/english.

Language of the Data

The data are presented in the language in which they were entered into the database. Most data are in English.

Using the Search Page


Searches can be restricted to a single discipline, a subset of the four disciplines, or all disciplines: check the appropriate boxes.

Keyword Search

  • A keyword search returns all records that contain the keyword(s), regardless of the data field(s) in which they occur.
  • Keywords are not case sensitive.
  • Multiple terms can be entered into the Keyword(s) search field using Boolean operators ("and", "or", "not").
  • When multiple terms are entered without the Boolean operator "and", the "and" is implied.
  • Once terms are entered into the Keyword(s) search field, click the Search button to conduct the search.

Words with accents in the database will be returned only when the accent is included in the search term, with the exception of "Québec" and "Quebec"; each of these terms will return the same results.

The database does not record common names of organisms. Therefore, searching for records by common name will return no results. Determine the scientific name of your organism of interest and use it for your search.

Advanced Search

Advanced Search fields are activated when one or more disciplines are selected.

Multiple terms can be entered into the fields in Advanced Search using Boolean operators ("and", "or", "and not").

Most fields have autocomplete drop-down menus that can be accessed by entering text. The terms displayed are the ones that are present in the database. They can be helpful in choosing search terms.

Advanced Search fields are grouped under five main headings: General, Taxonomy, Specimen Related, Location and Date. The fields in each of these groups depend on the discipline(s) selected. When more than one discipline is selected, only common fields can be queried. Most Mineralogy fields are different from Botany, Palaeobiology and Zoology fields; therefore, an advanced search of Mineralogy and any of the other disciplines will include only the few fields that are common to the selected disciplines.


  • Collection: Within each discipline, Search can be restricted to one or more collections: check the appropriate box. For example, there are four Botany collections: Alga, Bryophyte, Lichen and Vascular Plant. When multiple disciplines are selected, all collections in each discipline are listed, and then one or several can be selected.
  • Display only records with images: If this box is checked, then a search will return only records with images. Some images are suppressed; see Images below.
  • CMN Catalogue Number—Mineralogy only: This field for other disciplines is listed under the Specimen Related heading. For a description, see CMN Catalogue Number below.
  • Subcollection—Mineralogy only: The Canadian Museum of Nature has a few mineralogy subcollections that retain special status. Some key ones are the Pinch, Robinson, Ebbutt and Moyd subcollections.


These fields include information about the taxonomic classifications, identifications and type status of specimens. If a single taxonomic field is queried (i.e., Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Scientific Name), then search results will return all specimens classified at and below the queried taxonomic rank. For example, a search of the plant family Poaceae will return all records identified as members of that family.

  • Scientific Name:
    • For biological organisms, enter a genus, species (genus + specific epithet) or infraspecific taxon (genus + specific epithet + infraspecific rank + infraspecific epithet). For minerals, enter a recognized species or varietal name.
    • Synonyms: Searches do not return specimen records filed under synonymous names. To find all material of a taxon that is filed under different names, conduct separate searches for synonyms, or use Boolean operators. For example, a search in this field for "Agropyron repens or Elymus repens" will return results filed under each of these synonymous names.
  • Identifier: The name of the person or persons who identified the specimen.
  • Date Identified From / To: These fields can be used to restrict a search to specimens identified during a specific period of time, or since a specific date. Date format: YYYY-MM-DD.
  • Display only type specimens: Check this item to return records of type specimens only.
  • Display all: This item is checked by default. When checked, records are returned regardless of their type status.
  • Previous Identification: The scientific name of a previous identification, the name of the identifier(s) and the date of identification.
  • Type Status: The kind of nomenclatural type (e.g., holotype, lectotype, syntype).
  • Associated Taxa:
    • This field is used mostly with lichen, bryophyte and parasite specimens because these small organisms often grow in species mixtures. The scientific-name field for bryophytes and lichens gives the name of the dominant species or the species that was of interest to the collector, but other taxa may be included in the packet.
    • To find all material for a given bryophyte or lichen species name, perform two searches: one using the scientific-name field, and another in which the species name is entered in the associated-species field. The associated-species search term will return a list of specimens that include your species of interest as an incidental associated species. The field is also used to record hosts of parasites, and nest parasites.
  • Group—Mineralogy only: This field holds the name of the mineral group or supergroup.
  • Associated Species—Mineralogy only: This field holds the names of any prominent mineral species associated with the main species.

Specimen Related

  • CMN Catalogue Number: The catalogue (accession) number of the specimen. Most Canadian Museum of Nature catalogue numbers are prefaced by a collection code followed by a space, such as in "CMNAR 10301". When searching using a catalogue number, this space must be included. For example, to search for this record, enter "CMNAR 10301". In contrast, search criteria of "10301" will return all records that include this number string if it is present in whole or in part in any catalogue number. Some collections use a format that includes the year catalogued and may have sub-numbers for different parts, such as the fish specimen CMNFI 2005-0001.1.
  • Collector: The name of the collector(s) of the specimen (e.g., "Doe", or "Doe, J.A.").
  • Collector Number: The collector's number, which is an identifier given by the collector to the specimen or sample, usually in the field.
  • Date Collected From / To: These fields can be used to restrict a search to specimens collected during a specific time period. Date format: YYYY-MM-DD.
  • GenBank/BOLD Number: This field records GenBank accession numbers or BOLD (Barcode of Life Data Systems) numbers (BOLD Sample ID or BOLD Process ID) of DNA sequences that are associated with the specimen (the voucher specimen) from which genetic information was obtained.
  • Sex—Palaeobiology and Zoology only: The sex of the specimen.
  • Life Stage—Palaeobiology and Zoology only: The life stage of the specimen (e.g., juvenile, adult, larva).
  • Specimen Nature—Palaeobiology and Zoology only: A description of the specimen (e.g., fossil, seed, bone, slide, mounted skin, skeletal).
  • Geologic Age—Palaeobiology only: The geological age of the specimen (e.g., Carboniferous, Cretaceous, Paleocene).
  • Collection Method—Zoology only: A description of how the specimen was collected (e.g., net, pitfall trap, electrofishing, road kill, weir).
  • Capture Depth—Zoology only: The depth below the surface at which the specimen was collected.


These fields include information about where the specimens were collected.

  • Continent: The name of the continent on which the specimen was collected. Not used in Mineralogy.
  • Country: The name of the country in which the specimen was collected. For Mineralogy, see Place Collected below.
  • Province/Territory/State: The name of the province, territory, state, or other first-level administrative division of the country in which the specimen was collected. For Mineralogy, see Place Collected below.
  • County: The name of the county, other second-level administrative division, or island in/on which the specimen was collected. For Mineralogy, see Place Collected below.
  • Place Collected: The general place of collection. This could be the name of a city, town, national park, lake, etc. For Mineralogy, this field houses country, province/state, county and township information; see also Locality Description below.
  • Locality Description: The specific description of the collection locality. Search results will include all records in which the search term is present in the textual description of the locality. For example, searching for "stream" will return all results with "stream" in the locality description, such as "George River Ungava. By small stream 1 mile east of river". For Mineralogy, this field also houses the locality (city, town, body of water, etc.) name.
  • Locality Synonyms—Mineralogy only: Some localities, mineral occurrences and mines have multiple or alternate names, and this information has been captured for some of the mineralogy data.
  • Deposit Type—Mineralogy only: The genetic class or deposit type. Some examples: alkaline rock, granitic pegmatite, SEDEX, VMS, evaporate, skarn, porphyry, vein-stockwork, ophiolite complex, vein-arsenide silver-cobalt, gneiss or schist, marble, diagenetic segregation or replacement, sandstone uranium or vanadium.
  • Topo Map—Mineralogy only: The formal number or name of a topographic map reference. For example, for Canadian sites enter the NTS map number (e.g.,"031 F/04"); for American sites enter the name of the map sheet (usually corresponding to the 7.5-minute series). The search will respond with a list of all samples from sites on the pertinent map. It is also a good way to plan a collecting trip!
  • Latitude: The latitude of the collection locality. Format: Decimal degrees between −90 and 90.
  • Longitude: The longitude of the collection locality. Format: Decimal degrees between −180 and 180.
  • Sample Source—Mineralogy only: This field credits the source of the sample, which is usually an individual, an academic institution or a commercial dealership.
  • Select Area: The database can be queried using the map by selecting a polygon (bounding box) or a point location with a buffering range. To define a polygon, select three to five points on the map. The point markers on the map can be dragged and dropped to adjust the selected area. A search will return all results with geographical coordinates located within the polygon. To set a specific location (point location), select a point on the map, and then in the Search Radius pull-down menu, choose 5 km, 10 km or 50 km. A search will return all results with geographical coordinates located within the search radius.


  • Update Date From / To: This field allows a search to be restricted to records updated during a certain time period or since a particular date. For example, a frequent user of the database may want to search for only those records that have been changed or added to the database since they last queried it. Format: YYYY-MM-DD.

Using the Results Page

The total number of records found: displayed above the map.

Mapped Records

  • The number of records with geographical coordinates: displayed in the map heading.
  • Specimen records with geographical coordinates: displayed on the map.
  • Records with suppressed site data are not mapped. If the original records have geographical coordinates, the records are included in the count of mappable records despite their not appearing on the map. (Nor are the coordinates provided in the results). See Localities Not Published below.
  • Records from each of the four disciplines are identified by unique symbols on the map.
  • Selecting a record on the map will reveal additional information in a text box. Go to the full record by clicking on the catalogue number in that text box.
  • Multiple Records Per Site: If more than one record was collected at the same site, the site is identified by the Multiple Records Per Site symbol. The number of records at the site is indicated numerically in the symbol box.
  • Clustered Records: If the number of sites to be displayed is so large that they can't be shown individually, they are clustered. The number of clusters depends on the scale of the map. To resolve a cluster into individual records and/or smaller clusters, click on a cluster or zoom in on the map.

List View and Grid View

  • Results can be viewed in List View and Grid View. These views can be toggled at any time.
  • List View includes all data for each record. Grid View includes only key data fields.
  • Clicking on a specimen's catalogue number in Grid View will go to the full record.

Exporting Data

  • Records can be downloaded in CSV, PDF and KML formats.
  • All results or selected results can be downloaded.
  • CSV exports are limited to a maximum of 20 000 records. The first 20 000 records returned in a search will be exported. If you require larger data exports, contact us.
  • PDF downloads are restricted to 100 records—the first 100 in the results, depending on the sort order.
  • See the terms and conditions for using our collection data.

KML files open by default in Google Earth if you have it installed. The placemark labels for each record show on the map by default, but this setting can be changed. To not show the labels:

  1. In the Places window, select the folder that contains the exported records (the default name is "CMN KML Export")
  2. Right-click on the folder name, and then open Properties
  3. Click on the Style, Color tab
  4. Click on Share Style if you see a message that states, "The descendent(s) of this file do not share the same style. Click the button below if you want to force all descendants the share the same Style."
  5. Under Label, change the Scale to 0
  6. Click on OK.


  • Records with images are indicated in Grid View by an icon, and in List View by a thumbnail of the image(s). Click on the icon or thumbnail to access the image(s).
  • The images may be downloaded. See the terms and conditions for using our collection data.
  • Records with suppressed site data have their images withheld from search results because the image may include a label with the data. The records will appear in search results, including if you have chosen to show only records with images (the results will return records that originally had images, although the images are not published). See Localities Not Published below.

Localities Not Published: Fossils and Rare Plant Taxa

Because fossil sites are sensitive, their site data and images are suppressed (not published).

In order to protect sensitive species, the collecting locations and images of some plant specimens are suppressed (not published).

Wild Species 2010: The General Status of Species in Canada ranks vascular plants, bryophytes and macrolichens in Canada according to the degree of risk to the species' population in the country, and in each of the provinces and territories. While many criteria could be considered in establishing a list of sensitive species with respect to locality data, the General Status ranks address the Canadian flora in a single document, and is considered a relatively comprehensive initial resource.

Collecting localities for species that rank 1 (At risk) and 2 (May be at risk) on the latest General Status list are being withheld from public access for the jurisdictions (country, province and/or territory) in which the species is considered sensitive.

Specific requests for locality data or images that have been suppressed can be directed to the relevant collection curator, and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See Mapped Records and Images above.

Return to Search Our Collections.