New & Noteworthy

Archive for October, 2011

12 Oct 2011

Radio Program Explores How Natural Science Collections Contribute to Understanding of Oysters in Ecosystems

Peter Roopnarine, a curator with the California Academy of Science, and Paul Callomon, collections manager with the Academy of Natural Science, appeared on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.  The program aired on WHHY radio in Philadelphia.

According to the station’s website, “While some people may see oysters as only a delicious delicacy, researchers are using them to understand the long term environmental impact of the Gulf oil spill. Oyster shells turn out to hold important clues about past ecological disasters. This hour, the importance of oysters – more than just good eating, these mollusks play a key role in the ecosystem.”

Information about the program, including a link to the broadcast, is available at:

05 Oct 2011

NSF Funds Seed Bank for Evolutionary Research

A group of plant evolutionary biologists have been awarded $1.2 million to create the nation’s first seed bank specifically designed to allow investigation of how plants respond to environmental change over long periods of time.  The project, called Project Baseline, is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology.

According to the award abstract: “This project will create a planned collection of seeds that will allow future studies of evolution in response to global change.  With this project, we will create a seed ‘time capsule’ that will allow future biologists to dissect the genetic basis of evolutionary change.”

Unlike other seed repositories, Project Baseline will not be used to restore lost biodiversity.  Instead, the seeds will be collected along with environmental and climatic data, so that five, ten, or fifty years researchers will be able to study how these plant species have evolved in response to drought, climate change, and other factors.

Project Baseline will collect seeds from 80 plant species throughout the United States.  These seeds will be stored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation for use by future evolutionary biologists.

04 Oct 2011

NSC Alliance Shares Benefits of Digitization with Congress

In a feature article in the September 2011 issue of the journal BioScience, freelance journalist Beth Baker chronicles recent efforts to digitize scientific collections in the United States.  The article includes an interesting sidebar describing the recently announced National Science Foundation effort, Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections.  The report concludes with a section describing how engineers are now collaborating with biologists to solve some long-standing technological challenges that have hindered efforts to cost-effectively digitize specimens.

The article is an excellent tool for educating policymakers about the importance of scientific collections, and how investments in this national resource help drive forward science, create new opportunities, and contribute to more efficient management of environmental issues and natural resources.  On 28 September 2011, NSC Alliance director of public policy Dr. Robert Gropp sent a copy of the article to congressional committee staffers with an interest in science and natural resources policy.

To view the article, visit (fee may apply).

04 Oct 2011

New NAS Report: Designing the Microbial Research Commons

The National Academies of Science Board on Research Data and Information project has released a new report: Designing the Microbial Research Commons: Proceedings of an International Workshop.  The report is a compilation of the edited presentations from a meeting by the same name.  According to the project team, “although it uses microbiology as a focal point, it is analogous to the situation in many other life sciences and scientific disciplines, looking at new intellectual property, institutional, and governance mechanisms for broadening access and reuse of publicly-funded materials, data, and info.”

Download a free electronic copy of the report or order print copies at  Additional information about the background of this project may be found on the Board’s website at