New & Noteworthy

Archive for November, 2009

24 Nov 2009

New Vertebrate Genome Project Announced

A group of scientists recently published in the Journal of Heredity a proposal to sequence the genome of over 10,000 vertebrate species. The project, Genome 10K, supporters argue, should be possible to complete in five years at a cost of $50 million. The Genome 10K project would provide comparative information on molecular, developmental, and evolutionary biological processes across all vertebrate species. Because the study would include endangered species and species in threatened habitats, this initiative could provide valuable insights into climate change, emerging diseases, population structure, and conservation tactics. Thus far, the project has identified 16,203 species for sequencing, with nearly 60 of those species already completed.

According to the project website (, “The Genome 10K project aims to assemble a genomic zoo–a collection of DNA sequences representing the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species, approximately one for every vertebrate genus. The growing Genome 10K Community of Scientists (G10KCOS), made up of leading scientists representing major zoos, museums, research centers, and universities around the world, is dedicated to coordinating efforts in tissue specimen collection that will lay the groundwork for a large-scale sequencing and analysis project.”

24 Nov 2009

NPS Says Scientists Must Share

The National Park Service (NPS) plans to require researchers using specimens collected from national parks to enter into a benefits-sharing agreement with NPS if their research produces discoveries or inventions with some valuable commercial application.  Discoveries would not be permitted to be used for commercial applications without the benefits-sharing agreement.  Under the new rules, researchers with commercially successful discoveries would provide monetary or non-monetary compensation to the NPS on an annual basis, subject to the terms of their benefit-sharing agreement.

The decision was issued in a final Environmental Impact Statement published in the Federal Register (  The decision is an outgrowth of several commercial applications of scientific discoveries made in national parks, the most notable being the invention of PCR from the study of a microorganism discovered in Yellowstone National Park.

The NPS will implement the requirement for a benefits-sharing agreement no sooner than 30 days from November 23, 2009.  This requirement will not affect current requirements or the application process for obtaining a permit to conduct research in a national park, as the benefits-sharing agreement would be initiated after permitted research was conducted.

More information is available at (select “Washington Office” from the park menu and then follow the link for benefits-sharing).

20 Nov 2009

Information Sought on Whereabouts of Stolen Fossils

Several fish fossils were taken from the Johnston Geology Museum at Emporia State University, located in Emporia, Kansas, on or around October 12, 2009.  Information on the whereabouts of the stolen fossils is being sought by Dr. DeWayne Backhus, chair of the Department of Physical Sciences at the university.  The part and counterpart of two acanthodian fish fossils and of a Xenacanthus fossil were removed from the collection.  If you have any information regarding the missing specimens, please contact Dr. DeWayne Backhus at (620) 341-5330 or  Pictures are available to aid in identification of the fossils.

18 Nov 2009

Darwin’s Bird Collection Could Be Key to Restoration of an Extinct Galapagos Population

An international group of researchers have extracted DNA from two birds collected by Charles Darwin during his voyage on the HMS Beagle in the hopes of reintroducing the now extinct sub-population to the Galapagos Islands.  A study published by the Royal Society journal Biology Letters documents the scientists’ efforts to determine genetic differences among three sub-populations of the Galapagos mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus).  With this information, the Charles Darwin Foundation, a research-based conservation organization operating in the Galapagos Islands, hopes to reintroduce the Floreana sub-population of mockingbirds using birds from nearby islands.  The Floreana mockingbird went extinct 50 years after Darwin’s voyage, largely due to human impacts, however two sub-populations of the species still exist on other islands in the Galapagos.

The study highlights the modern day value of natural history collections, as the bird specimens used are part of the collection of the Natural History Museum of London.  “Though Darwin knew nothing of DNA, the specimens he and [captain Robert] Fitzroy collected have, after 170 years of safe-keeping in collections, yielded genetic clues to suggest a path for conservation of this critically endangered and historically important species,” said Dr. Karen James, an author of the study.  To read the article, please visit Biology Letters.

13 Nov 2009

Awards and Grants Available for Natural History Collections

The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) is requesting nominations and proposals for several awards and grants.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the SPNHC President’s Award and the Carolyn B. Rose Award.  The President’s Award is presented to a current or former SPNHC member whose activities have furthered the objectives of the Society through outstanding committee work, prolonged officer roles, or promotion of activities of the Society.  The Carolyn B. Rose Award is the Society’s highest honor and given to an individual whose work and efforts have promoted the values and objectives of the Society (membership in SPNHC not required).  Nominations should include a letter of nomination, a current curriculum vitae, and letters of recommendations.  Questions and nominations should be submitted to Tim White ( by January 15, 2010.

Proposals are also being accepted for the Faber Grant, a cash grant of up to $1000 to support a project addressing issues on the management, care, conservation, or use of natural history collections.  Applicants must be SPNHC members in good standing for at least one year prior to the award date.  The successful applicant will be expected to 1) present a final or interim report at the Annual Meeting of the Society and 2) publish the results, with the understanding that the manuscript will be sent first to the SPNHC Publications Committee for first right of refusal.  The cover sheet should include a project title, name(s) of project personnel (including title, address, phone/fax numbers and email), and a single line spaced 100 word abstract describing the proposed project.  The proposal text should include a statement of purpose, project plan (e.g., participants, methods, materials, schedule of completion, etc.), and proposed use of funds.  The text should have one inch margins, 10-12 characters per inch, and double line spacing.  The application, including cover page, should not exceed 10 pages.  Curriculum vita of the principal investigator and letters of commitment may be single line spaced and attached as an appendix.  Questions and proposals should be submitted to Tim White ( by March 1, 2010.

Lastly, SPNHC is offering a new Travel Grant program designed to assist members with the costs of attending the Society’s annual meeting.  The first grants will be available for attendance at the 2010 meeting of the Society in Ottawa.  A total of $3,000 has been allocated to the program and grants will be for a minimum of $750 each.  Preference will be given to graduate students or emerging professionals in fields related to the management and conservation of natural history collections.  For more details and contact information, visit the SPNHC & CBA-ABC 2010 Joint Conference website at

13 Nov 2009

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Names New VP of Research and Collections

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has named paleontologist Dr. John Long the new Vice President of Research and Collections.  Dr. Long previously served as Head of Sciences for the Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.  In his new position, Dr. Long leads the curatorial staffs, collection stewardship, and oversees the research conducted at the museum.  In addition to his experience at the Museum Victoria, Dr. Long has been actively engaged in research on the early evolution of fish and dinosaurs.  In 2001, Dr. Long won the Eureka Prize for the Public Promotion of Science.