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19 Sep 2017

Brazilian Museum Faces Closure in Wake of Large Budget Cuts

A Brazilian museum is facing major budget cuts. The Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi has closed its Amazon biodiversity research unit and zoological park. Its scientific collections are also threatened.

The museum’s director sent out an open letter to the world. A translation of part of the letter follows.

“[I]n view of the situation as it passes the Goeldi Museum in relation to the cuts promoted by the Ministry of Planning, Planning and Management (MPOG) in the year 2017, and the current budget forecast (PLOA) of 2018, and my obligation as a director of the longest-running public research institute in Amazonia, the third Brazil, [I must] inform the public that:

  1. we have in the Annual Budget Law (LOA) of 2017, an approved approximately R$12,700,000.00, of which we had a cut (contingency) of 44%, totaling an amount of resources of the order of R$7,100,000.00 to be used in 2017;
  2. Since 2015, I have been implementing a policy of spending cuts, especially with outsourcing expenses, and thereby ’saving’ the budget of the Goeldi Museum to be able to close both the 2015 and 2016 exercises;
  3. In 2017, we arrived with a table of expenses, mainly of security, cleaning and (maintenance of nurseries, gardeners, electricians, caretakers, etc.) to the maintenance of the Goeldi Museum in absolutely minimal condition;
  4. In the first eight months of 2017, the Goeldi Museum has used approximately R $5.6 million;
  5. The total fixed expenses of the Goeldi Museum (including third-party maintenance and cleaning, energy, telephone, consumables, etc.) to the last 4 months of the year 2017, are approximately R$ 3.7 million;
  6. Thus, the Museum is deficient in R$ 3.7 million to be able to honor its contracts without requiring further cuts.”

“Therefore, please publicize this note, and help raise the awareness of the government and to achieve success in the 2014 in 2018, so that we can continue to conduct our research, disclose knowledge of excellence, help decision-makers achieve good public policies to the Amazon, and to move the development of a state rich in biodiversity and biodiversity, inhabited by a happy and caring people.”

19 Sep 2017

Deadline Approaching for Digitization RFPs

The National Science Foundation is currently accepting grant proposals for the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) program.

This program seeks to enhance and expand the national resource of digital data documenting existing vouchered biological and paleontological collections and to advance scientific knowledge by improving access to digitized information (including images) residing in vouchered scientific collections across the United States.

Proposals are due by October 13, 2017. Learn more at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15576/nsf15576.htm.

06 Sep 2017

National Fossil Day is October 11

The National Park Service is planning for the annual celebration of National Fossil Day, which will take place on October 11, 2017. National Fossil Day is a nationwide celebration that will include paleontology activities planned by partner organizations across the United States.

NSC Alliance has once again partnered with the National Park Service to promote the event. NSCA also has a short document about the scientific value of fossil collections.

The participation of local museums, universities, and other scientific organizations is central to National Fossil Day. Help your local community learn about local paleontological and natural resources by participating in the event.

To join as a partner for National Fossil Day, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/events.htm.

15 Aug 2017

Museums Write to Congress about Funding

Nearly 950 museum organizations signed a letter to Congress about the need for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The agency was proposed for elimination in President Trump’s 2018 budget request.

NSC Alliance was among the signatories, as were several NSC Alliance member organizations.

“While we acknowledge the many pressing priorities in the budget, the tremendous economic and educational contributions of museums make them eminently worthy of federal funding,” states the letter. “As you make decisions about the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, we urge you to support agencies and programs that help museums make a difference in their communities.”

IMLS Letter

04 Aug 2017

Fire at Vermont Herbarium

A fire at a historic building at the University of Vermont threatened the natural history collections in the Pringle Herbarium. Initial assessments, however, indicate that the collection was not harmed.

The herbarium holds the state’s largest flora collection–more than 300,000 specimens. The specimens date back to 1810.

The building also houses the university’s insect and mammal collections. The university said in a statement that the animal collections appear to be undamaged.

The blaze was likely caused by construction workers who were soldering copper. Although the fire was contained to the upper parts of the building, water damage occurred throughout the building.

The university will move the collections and are planning to restore the building.

26 Jul 2017

iDigBio Now Has 100+ Million Specimens

iDigBio is now the largest virtual collection of natural history specimens in the world. The National Science Foundation-sponsored initiative surged past 100 million digitized records in July 2017.

“What’s exciting about being at more than 100 million specimen records is you can ask larger questions over space, time and biodiversity. Big data sheds light not just on one species but whole blocks of species — aquatic and terrestrial,” said Larry Page, director of iDigBio. “The more data we have, the better we’ll be able to predict the impacts of climate change, human disease, landscape modifications and changes that will impact crops.”

Page is a past president of the Natural Science Collections Alliance.

The project is based at the University of Florida with the Florida Museum of Natural History and Florida State University as core partners. iDigBio has amassed data from more than 1,900 collections from about 820 institutions in its online portal.

Learn more at https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/museum-digitization-program-idigbio-rockets-past-100-million-specimen-records/.

05 Jul 2017

University of Louisiana at Monroe Collections Find New Homes

Four universities in the southeastern U.S. have stepped forward to house natural history collections from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The university had previously threatened to destroy more than 80,000 jars of scientific specimens and 450,000 plant specimens if new homes could not be located.

“[T]he specimens will remain available to researchers nationwide as they will be housed in institutions that can preserve their scientific worth. None of the specimens will be destroyed,” said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael A. Camille.

University of Louisiana at Monroe administrators reached out to 32 other universities, 18 of which submitted proposals to receive one or more of the collections. A team of museum curators and administrators from the university evaluated the proposals.

The fish collection is heading to a consortium of institutions lead by Tulane University. The University of Texas at Arlington will take the reptile and amphibian collection. The insect collection is going to Mississippi State University. The Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Ft. Worth will take the botanical collection.

The specimens had been stored in an athletic facility, which is scheduled for construction in mid-July. That building project necessitated the removal of the specimens.

The transfer of the specimens will likely be completed in August.

03 Jul 2017

Legislation Introduced to Protect Cultural Objects

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has reintroduced legislation to prohibit the export of cultural objects and human remains obtained in violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The “Safeguarding Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act,” or “STOP Act,” would also increase the criminal penalties for violations of NAGPRA.

“We all recognize the incredible beauty of American Indian art — from the remnants of ancient wonders that we can explore and admire in places like Chaco Canyon and the Gila Cliff Dwellings to the traditional and modern art masterpieces created by Native artists to this day,” Heinrich said in a statement. “But we can also recognize a clear difference between supporting tribal artists or collecting artifacts ethically and legally as opposed to dealing or exporting items that tribes have identified as essential and sacred pieces of their cultural heritage.”

S. 1400 is co-sponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Heinrich introduced a similar bill in the last session of Congress, but it did not advance out of committee.

13 Jun 2017

NAGPRA Review Committee Suspended

More than 200 advisory panels for the Department of the Interior have been temporarily suspended, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Review Committee. Committee meetings previously scheduled for July and August have been postponed.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke put all outside committees on hiatus as he reviews their charters and missions. Other impacted committees include the Bureau of Land Management’s 38 resource advisory councils, as well as the National Park System Advisory Board, National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, and North Slope Science Initiative Technical Advisory Panel.

An Interior spokesperson said the review of “the charter and charge of each Board/Advisory Committee” is designed to “maximize feedback from these boards and ensure their compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.”

The review process has halted meetings of these groups through at least September 2017. Moreover, the appointment and nomination process for the NAGPRA Review Committee has been postponed until further notice. Two nominations are currently pending: one tribal position and the at-large position. One of the museum and scientific nominated positions will become vacant in November 2017.

25 May 2017

Biology Community to Congress: Reject Budget, Fund Science

A letter to Congress calls for lawmakers to reject the deep cuts to research and science education proposed in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.

“The budget cuts outlined by the Administration for 2018 would set back American innovation for years. Funding rates for programs that support foundational biological research are already extremely low, with roughly four out of five research proposals rejected by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The proposed budget would slash these funding rates even further for researchers at universities, colleges, marine labs, field stations, biological collections, and other non-profit research centers. Research conducted at federal labs would be harmed by likely staff reductions and cuts to research budgets.”

The letter was signed by the NSC Alliance and 40 other scientific organizations.

Read the letter at https://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20170523multisocietyletter.html.

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