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Ordering & Shipping FAQ

1. How dense are the cultures or, how many cells are in a culture?
We do not conduct routine cell counts. Since we are transferring and microscopically observing cultures once every 2 - 8 weeks, we typically get a good assessment on their health without counting. The NCMA ships starter cultures of strains. The goal is for cultures to arrive to the customer alive. The culture can then be subcultured and grown for particular needs. Once the shipment leaves us, it is out of our control. The cultures in the shipment can be subjected to environmental stress – darkness for at least 24 hours, temperatures ranging from very cold (in a cargo hold in an airplane) to very hot (sitting on a loading dock or in a truck in a warm climate). We do not ship at high density because dense cultures do not respond as well to stress as less dense cultures, hence the cultures may look very dilute when you receive them.

2. How much biomass/DNA/RNA can I expect from harvested cells?
Each strain, even strains of the same species, grows differently, therefore yields cannot be provided. In a few instances, if we have repeated experience in harvesting a particular strain, we may be able to provide a rough estimate but we do not make any guarantees.  There will be an additional charge of $125 for each mass culture you would like lyophilized.

3. How do you ship harvested cells and/or RNA?
We ship harvested cells and RNA on dry ice. Dry ice is an additional $65 plus additional fees to be determined by the courier. Please note: not all countries will accept shipments containing dry ice. Please verify that your country allows dry ice imports.

4. Can I order culture volumes greater than 1L?
Yes, please contact ncma@bigelow.org for more information on mass cultures and other custom orders.

5. How do I choose a strain?
You may have a specific need when ordering a strain- perhaps a geographic need, or wish to purchase an authentic strain or one that has a publication record.

Relative ease of growth is being developed as a searchable parameter on our website. We can tell you more details about growth habit, isolation details, taxonomic assignment over time, etc. of specific strains. Please contact us by email at ncma@bigelow.org for more in- depth information.

6. Can I use an image from your website?
Yes, provided it is for educational, non-profit purposes only. We can probably provide a higher resolution image on request. All uses of our images must be accompanied by an acknowledgement stating: “Courtesy of the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) https://ncma.bigelow.org/”

7. Why can’t cultures be shipped by ground?
Live cultures must ship fastest method possible in order to optimize viability upon arrival. The NCMA is located in a relatively remote location and shipping anywhere outside of New England by ground will take more than a one-day transit.

8. What can be shipped by ground?
We will gladly ship medium kits, prepared medium and seawater by ground whenever possible, as these are not time and temperature sensitive. Ground shipping a heavy item such as seawater is the most economical option.

9. How are cultures packaged?
Starter cultures are shipped in sealed tubes or tissue culture flasks wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in either a Styrofoam box packed with newspaper or a cardboard box that is insulated with GreenLiners.  The IPC GreenLiner is a collapsible insulation liner that is made of relatively dense polyurethane foam and is 100% recyclable. An online database can be used to find a recycling depot near you.  Warm packs and cold packs are used as necessary depending upon the strain and/or the outside temperature.  Larger orders (16 or more tubes, mass cultures, etc.) or orders including media kits, prepared media and seawater will be shipped in larger containers or multiple boxes.

10. Can I order cultures on agar plates?
No, all cultures are shipped in liquid.

11. What do I do when my strain cultures arrive?
a. Read the enclosed strain information sheet. This sheet has information regarding culture medium and culture temperature.

b. Place your strain culture at the appropriate temperature and in subdued light for 12 hours or so to allow it to stabilize. Then remove about half the biomass that was sent from each tube and place that in fresh medium. Inoculate into a small volume medium (a ratio of 5-10 mls of culture to 100mls of medium is a good place to start). Retain the unused part of your cultures until you are certain that you have the strain growing in your medium

c. At that time, examine your culture with a light microscope. Check for intact cells, and, where appropriate, swimming cells.

d. Move, in a day or so, to appropriate light levels. e. Watch your newly transferred material over the next several weeks to see if it grows in your medium.

12. My cultures were dead on arrival, can I get replacements?
We will replace/reship cultures that arrive in a completely unviable state (dead) for the price of shipping and handling on the reshipment. However, we must be notified that it did not survive within a two weeks of delivery, and our free culture replacement policy is for viability at the shipped location.  In addition, our free culture replacement policy is void if you use your own shipping company.

Before we make arrangements for a reshipment, we need to have the following questions answered so that we may have more success at you receiving your strains alive. please send us an email with your order number referenced, the strain numbers listed, and your answers to the questions below:

a. Can you tell us what the temperatures were when you received them? Could they have overheated or frozen in transit or while sitting on a loading dock? Are you aware of any delay in delivery of the strain?

b. Can you tell us what you did with them upon arrival?

c. Did you examine them with a microscope when you received them?

d. Please tell us what medium, temperature and light conditions you are using to grow the culture.

e. When did you subculture them?

f. Can you provide us with the specifics of the media you used?

g. What was the salinity of the media?

13. Do you offer an academic discount?

** Due to the escalating costs of doing business, we will be increasing the price of all of our products on January 1, 2018.  Kindly note that our last price increase was in 2013. ** 

Non-profit institutions are eligible to purchase starter cultures at a set discounted price:  $150 for US non-profits and $160 for international non-profits. There is no discount on all other products or services. Due to the stipulations of our non-profit grant funding (we are a non-profit institution) this discount is available only to other non-profit institutions. If you are purchasing these cultures on behalf of a US non-profit, please provide some explanation and/or evidence of the non-profit qualification/status. The standard price for starter cultures is $175.

14. Some of my cultures will take longer to grow than others, can I get multiple shipments?
Yes, however, you will need to pay full shipping and handling fees for each separate shipment.

15. I’m ordering a kit and/or seawater as well as live cultures – can I get the kit and seawater shipped in advance?
Yes, we will ship kits and seawater in advance upon request. $10 - $15 additional shipping fees may apply.

16. I’m going to need cultures in a few months – can I order them now?
Yes – absolutely! The earlier we can plan your shipment, the better. Just indicate in the comment field of your order when you would like your cultures to arrive and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

17. Can I pick up my cultures at your lab?
Yes, just let us know us know when you’ll be in the neighborhood and we will plan accordingly (and remove the shipping and handling charges).

18. Can I buy your cultures and products from a distributor?
No, we do not have any distributors. All orders need to be placed through the NCMA and are grown and shipped by the NCMA curators from our state-of-the-art facilities, located in East Boothbay, Maine. We do not provide guarantees to the quality or authenticity of CCMP-designated strains obtained from anywhere other than the NCMA.

19. How are cold strains shipped?
With refrigerated cold packs, never on ice, and never with dry ice.

20. Can I order cold strains with non-cold strains?
Maybe, it depends on the strains and the transit times.

21. Can I place a rush order?
No. With the exception of our aquaculture express strains, all cultures are grown to order.

22. How soon can my order be shipped?
Aquaculture express strains can be shipped by the next day depending upon the shipper and ship time. Other strains take at least two weeks from a Monday or Tuesday.

23. Why does it take so long?
Except for aquaculture express strains, we custom subculture every order as it is received. Some strains take longer to grow up to an appropriate shipping density than others. Some strains are stored as only cryopreserved material, cryopreserved strains can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to grow.

We generally ship Monday – Wednesday to avoid shipments being delayed in distribution facilities over weekends. Each day that a photosynthetic organism is deprived of light can reduce its viability. If a strain is temperature sensitive, it can be impacted even more.

24. Can you tell me the transit time from East Boothbay, Maine to my location?
Yes, just send us a request by email, including your postal (zip) code and we can provide you with an estimate from the courier (FedEx or UPS).

25. Why don’t you use DHL?
We are a remote pick up site for DHL. Shipping with DHL adds at least an extra day to shipments and that can adversely affect the viability of algal strains shipped.

26. Why don’t you ship cryopreserved material?
Cryopreserved material is time sensitive. It requires dry ice to ship and, should it be delayed in transit, and it thaws, the material will be non-viable. It is time consuming to create cryopreserved material, and should the shipment be unsuccessful, an additional sample will need to be removed from storage. Instead we thaw and grow on site. It is less expensive to ship without dry ice. Should a shipment of live material be delayed, it has a better chance of survival than cryopreserved material. Should the shipment totally fail, there is viable material on site here to reship.

27. Can I cancel my order?
There is a $75 restocking fee on all culture orders that are in process. Please bear in mind that cultures orders are custom grown. Thawing cryopreserved strains is particularly time and resource consuming. All shipped orders are considered final. We cannot accept returns on any products including, kits, seawater and prepared medium.

28. My institution requires a proforma invoice, how do I get one?
Proceed through the online ordering and check out process. During the check-out process you will have the opportunity to select “Proforma Invoice” as payment option. This will generate a proforma invoice in pdf format to submit to your purchasing department. A $30 bank transfer fee will be included in the total.

29. Can I get a quote?
Yes, our quotes are valid for 30 days.

30. Can I place a purchase order?
Yes, if you are a US based customer with pre-approval and the order is being shipped to a US address. Terms of sale are net 30 days of date of shipment for domestic orders.

31. Can I pay by check?
Yes, US customers only.

32. Can I pay by bank transfer (wire)?
Yes, there will be an additional $30 bank processing fee added to your order.

33. Can I pay by American Express or Discover cards?
No, we can only accept Visa or MasterCard at this time.

34. Can I get MSDS sheets?
No, the NCMA does not provide MSDS sheets at this time. However, we have plans to start providing them soon. Media components are listed on our recipe pages.

35. Can I get a health certificate?
No, we do not provide health certificates. Upon request, we will provide our own Sanitary Certificates and Certificates of Origin. Certificates of Origin are signed and stamped by the Boothbay Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Other documentation provided by the customer may be signed by the NCMA on a case-by-case basis. Additional administrative fees may apply.

36. Who pays duty fees/taxes/VAT?
The customer pays these fees. These fees are not included in NCMA invoices. Many customs agencies require payment of these fees before they will allow package to clear through customs. Please be prepared to make payment, otherwise the cultures may sit in customs until payment is made and will perish. Refunds will not be issued on orders that do not clear customs in a timely manner. NCMA refuses all return shipments.

37. What documents are required for shipments to locations outside the US?
International customers should request any necessary import permits from their appropriate government agency and provide the import permits to the NCMA with their order.

38. What documents are required for shipments to Hawaii?
The importation of algae into the State of Hawaii requires an import permit from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. It is the responsibility of the customer in Hawaii to obtain the permit and provide a copy to NCMA in advance of shipment. For further information please visit the State of Hawaii Plant Quarantine Division. Additional questions and application requests should be referred to

Amy N. Takahashi, Microorganism Specialist
Plant Quarantine Branch
1849 Auiki Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
Phone: (808) 832-0566
Fax: (808) 832-0584

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