New & Noteworthy



Archive for the 'News & Updates' Category

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.

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.”

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.

29 Sep 2017

Joint Letter from NSC Alliance and SPNHC

The presidents of the Natural Science Collections Alliance and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections sent a joint letter to the director of Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi in Brazil. The museum is facing large budget cuts.

An excerpt of the letter follows.

“The international links between institutions are strong and increasingly important as we help society and governments address challenges related to food security, emerging zoonotic pathogens and public health, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, invasive pests and other serious issues.

Worldwide, natural history museums are experiencing renewed interest and vitality, so it is disturbing to learn that a world-renowned institution, such as the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi is seeing such a dramatic loss of financial support. The specimens and associated data held in your collections are irreplaceable and critically important to research into changing environmental conditions and the natural history of an extraordinarily biologically diverse region of our planet.”

Read the full letter.

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/.

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