Shipping Biological Specimens

Outer envelope

Proper packing materials, labels, and shipping documentation are critical. Specimens must reach their destination as quickly as possible and in optimum condition. This happens only with proper packaging, labeling, and strict observance of pertinent shipping regulations. Specimens are usually delicate substances, and often considered hazardous because they frequently involve body fluids.  


Assay Lab Requirements

The laboratory doing the assay should be consulted regarding shipping requirements. It is customary to ship frozen specimens in dry ice or ice bricks via an overnight carrier.  Some specimens should not be frozen, while others can remain at ambient temperatures. Local ambient conditions should be taken into consideration for low and high temperatures, and perhaps humidity for some collection techniques such as filter paper.


Shipments should occur early in the week to allow for delays or problems in shipping. If using dry ice take into consideration its suppliers' time frame for delivery.  The receiving lab should be notified when the shipment is sent.  The lab should report back to the research project staff when the shipment is received.

Shipping Preparation

Packaging specimens video

Video clip of completing FedEx shipping label

CDC Chart of Refrigerated/Frozen Pack Needs for Different Climates

UNC-CH source for dry ice: National Welders Supply Company




UNC-Chapel Hill


UNC-CH Environment, Health, and Safety Office


  The Federal Aviation Administration can inspect research activities including training records regarding the handling of specimens for shipment by research project staff and can impose substantial fines for improper handling.


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