About the Natural Science Collections Alliance

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association that supports natural science collections, their human resources, the institutions that house them, and their research activities for the benefit of science and society.

Our members are part of an international community of museums, botanical gardens, herbariums, universities and other institutions that house natural science collections and utilize them in research, exhibitions, academic and informal science education, and outreach activities.

Membership in the NSC Alliance links you to a network of institutions, scientists and other professionals in North America through which you can share news, information and common concerns - and help shape the future of our community.


NSC Alliance in the News

Published on 05 Mar 2018

NSC Alliance Requests Senate Appropriators to Restore Biodiversity Research Programs at USGS

The President of the National Science Collections Alliance sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations asking the lawmakers to reject the proposed termination of the Biological Survey Unit and restore other on-going research initiatives at the U. S. Geological Survey.

Read the letter here.

Published on 07 Feb 2018

NSC Alliance Asks USGS to Reverse Decision to Remove Curators from NMNH

On February 7, 2018, the NSC Alliance sent a formal request to the US Geological Survey requesting that the agency reverse a decision to remove 10 USGS scientists from their assigned job functions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read the letter here.

Published on 22 Dec 2017

2017 Year in Review

In 2017, the NSC Alliance engaged in a number of notable activities to raise the profile of natural history collections with policymakers, researchers, and the general public. A few highlights are presented below:

  • Helped secure a 3 percent funding increase for the Smithsonian Institution in fiscal year 2017 and prevented large cuts to the budgets for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies that support natural history collections.
  • Worked with other museum supporting organizations and museums to defeat a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • Intervened when the University of Louisiana Monroe planned to dispose of its natural history collections. NSC Alliance’s involvement helped garner media attention and encouraged the university to facilitate transfer of the collection to other organizations.
  • NSC Alliance President Joseph Cook and Board member Scott Edwards organized the inaugural PFRB Symposium for 40 postdocs. The symposium highlighted new research uses of collections and provided an overview of opportunities in collections-based employment. The symposium was followed by a smaller BCoN workshop aimed at identifying new directions and opportunities for museums in the near future.

Read the full summary.

Published on 14 Dec 2017

Congress Reaches Deal on Tax Reform

On December 13, leaders in Congress announced that they had reached a final deal regarding tax reform legislation. The compromise is reportedly more similar to the bill passed by the Senate than the legislation crafted by the House.

Notably, the compromise purportedly retains the existing tax break for charitable deductions. However, since the standard deduction will be raised to $24,000 for couples and $12,000 for individuals, millions fewer taxpayers will be able to claim the deduction. Some non-profits have raised concerns about impacts to future charitable giving.

Another provision that would have taxed tuition waivers for graduate students does not appear in the final bill.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) and thirty other lawmakers had sent a letter to House leadership urging them to keep existing tax policies in place regarding tuition waivers for graduate students.

The tax reform bill passed by the House of Representatives, H.R. 1, would have increased taxes for many graduate students because tuition waivers would be taxed as income, even though students do not directly receive the money.

As the letter from lawmakers points out, 57 percent of waiver recipients are graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“A repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers would harm our nation’s students, undermine our competitive position, and hold back economic growth,” states the letter. “We strongly urge you to ensure that this harmful provision is not in the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

The compromise legislation must pass the Senate and House of Representatives before going to the President’s desk for a signature.

Published on 11 Dec 2017

Arctic Public Programming Internships

Free this spring or summer? Intern at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and join a team of passionate ocean educators and scientists to design and host public programs that expand the themes of the museum’s Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend temporary exhibit to different audiences including adults, families, and teens.

Interns will work on programs such as live feeds to research vessels, Scientist is In programs, a teen climate Earth Optimism event, and film screenings. They will help with program evaluation and visitor observations, help improve volunteer-facilitated carts, conduct science content research, conduct scientist interviews, facilitate programs, and assist with program implementation and marketing.
Undergraduate students with a background and interest in science (course work, field work, other) and an interest in science communication and/or teaching are encouraged to apply. The time commitment is 40 hours a week. To maximize the project learning outcomes, applicants should have the following qualifications:

  • Ability to cooperate as part of a collective team, while also working independently to reach team goals.
  • Self-starter with passion and the ability to plan, organize and establish priorities to meet goals and achieve results according to a timeline with set deadlines.
  • Proficient in using Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Able to speak and effectively communicate information to a group.

TIME COMMITMENT: 40 hours per week

STIPEND: $4,900 per internship

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Interns will learn techniques for how to use objects to engage visitors and methods for engaging visitors in interactive dialogue; effective strategies for communicating about climate change; how to plan and implement science education programs and events; how to use visitor and volunteer feedback to meet visitor needs; how to work with a range of collaborators such as educators, volunteers, and scientists; and gain knowledge about narwhal, the Arctic, how science works, and climate change.

TIME FRAME: There are two internships available:
Spring 2018 – Three months from approximately April 2018 to June 2018
Summer 2018 – Three months from approximately June 2018 thru August 2018

TO APPLY: Please send a resume and a cover letter explaining your interests, qualifications, and what you hope to get out of such an internship to Jennifer Collins at CollinsJE@si.edu by Friday January 5, 2018.

Published on 14 Nov 2017

Dimensions of Biodiversity Solicitation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released the new proposal solicitation for the Dimensions of Biodiversity program. One of the major changes announced is a co-funding opportunity between NSF and the National Research Foundation of South Africa for U.S.-South African collaborations. Additionally, the program will no longer consider proposals that investigate marine biodiversity or marine environments.

Learn more at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18512/nsf18512.htm.

Published on 02 Nov 2017

NSC Alliance 2017 Board and Officer Election Candidates

Dear NSC Alliance Members,

As part of the NSC Alliance process for selecting and electing members of the Board of Directors and Officers of the organization, NSC Alliance is announcing the proposed slate of candidates for open seats on the Board of Directors.

NSC Alliance will accept any additional nominations through 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on December 1, 2017. If you would like to nominate a candidate to the Board, please send their name, affiliation, and contact information to rgropp@aibs.org. In your nominations, please specify whether you are nominating the person to serve on the Board or as an Officer.

After this review period closes, all official representatives of NSC Alliance members in good standing will receive a ballot. The election will be held in early December.

Thank you for your assistance with this important matter.

2017 NSC Alliance Board Elections – Proposed Slate of Candidates


President: Dr. John Bates, Field Museum of Natural History
Vice President: Dr. Barbara Thiers, New York Botanical Garden
Secretary: Dr. Larry Page, University of Florida
Treasurer: Dr. Sarah George, Utah Museum of Natural History

Board Members:

Linda Lee “Cissy” Farm: Bishop Museum of Natural History
Gil Nelson: Florida State University
Rebecca Rundell: SUNY-ESF
Jennifer Zaspel: Milwaukee Public Museum

Published on 31 Oct 2017

BCoN Requests Community Input

The natural history collections community is invited to provide input on a draft report about community progress toward the goals and objectives outlined in the Strategic and Implementation Plans for NIBA. The report is the outcome of a two-day stakeholder workshop held in Washington, DC in January 2017 by the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN).

Since the community’s Strategic Plan for a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA) was first published, significant progress has been made toward the goals it articulated. However, as with any effort of significance, it is wise to periodically assess progress.

Although the participants in the workshop and the BCoN Advisory Committee have endeavored to capture an accurate assessment of progress toward NIBA, we have almost certainly missed some significant developments. Thus, we invite you to review this document and share your thoughts and suggestions with us. We also ask that your share this request with colleagues.

We invite comments on the draft document by Friday, November 24, 2017. All comments or questions should be submitted electronically to PublicPolicy@aibs.org.

Read the draft workshop report.

Published on 17 Oct 2017

U.S. to Withdraw from UNESCO

The Trump Administration announced earlier this month that the United States is leaving a United Nations body tasked with promoting international collaboration on educational, cultural, and scientific endeavors. The U.S. will formally withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the end of 2018.

In a statement from the State Department, the administration stated that: “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”

The U.S. stopped contributing financially to UNESCO about six years ago over concerns about the recognition of Palestine as an independent state. As a result, the U.S. lost its voting privileges four years ago.

UNESCO’s scientific programs include preservation of biologically diverse ecosystems. The international organization also weighed in on the preservation of museums and collections in a 2015 report.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova said that the U.S. and UNESCO have partnered on many meaningful projects, including “our interaction with the United States Geological Survey, with the US Army Corps of Engineers, with United States professional societies, to advance research for the sustainable management of water resources, agriculture.”

Published on 11 Oct 2017

News Coverage: Bird Specimens and Air Pollution

The New York Times covered a new study that used natural history specimens to measure historical air pollution. In “The Dirty Secrets Saved in Dead Birds’ Feathers,” author Joanna Klein writes about how the soot on bird specimens collected since 1850 can be used to figure out urban air pollution before federal monitoring standards were created.

“We can estimate how much smoke was actually in the atmosphere,” said Shane DuBay, a graduate student in evolutionary biology at The Field Museum and the University of Chicago and co-author of the study. “It might have been worse than the best estimates have predicted.”

Read the article at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/science/birds-air-pollution.html.

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