New & Noteworthy



Archive for May, 2012

25 May 2012

Ten New Species Earn Special Distinction

Each year, scientists discover thousands of new species, but only a few enjoy the distinction of being named one of the top ten new species of the year.  That honor is bestowed by the Informational Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

The winners include organisms as diverse as a monkey, a jellyfish, and a fungus.  The selections were made by a committee of scientists from around the world.  This was the fifth year for the top ten list.

“The top 10 is intended to bring attention to the biodiversity crisis and the unsung species explorers and museums who continue a 250-year tradition of discovering and describing the millions of kinds of plants, animals and microbes with whom we share this planet,” said Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who directs the International Institute for Species Exploration.  Dr. Wheeler is a board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance.

The winners were selected from more than 200 nominations.  Selection criteria are simple, according to Mary Liz Jameson, an associate professor at Wichita State University and chair of the selection committee.  “Some of the new species have interesting names; some highlight what little we really know about our planet,” she said.

Learn more about the 2011 winners at http://species.asu.edu/Top10.

23 May 2012

Little Remains of Government’s First Major Ornithological Study

An important biological collection and associated data may be gone soon, unless action is taken to preserve it.  Fifteen specimen jars containing the stomach contents of birds and 230,000 notecards containing information about the specimens are all that remain of the federal government’s first major study of birds.

For more than 50 years, starting in the 1880’s, the Division of Economic Ornithology at the Department of Agriculture collected at least 230,000 birds and examined their stomach contents.  The purpose of the study was to determine what birds were eating in order to determine which species were helpful to farmers and which were detrimental to crops.  This information was the basis of hundreds of scientific papers and several books on the food habitats of native birds.  The collection is still being used by scientists to determine how humans and modern agriculture have influenced birds.

For decades, the jars sat in storage at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.  Unfortunately, nearly all of the jars were discarded for fear they contained cancer-causing formaldehyde.  Only 15 jars survived.  The thousands of notecards that accompanied the jars are not stored properly and the United States Geological Survey, which runs the center, does not have the resources to digitize the collection.

Read a full account of the collection in an article published in the New York Times on 21 May 2012 at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/science/relics-with-much-to-tell-about-bird-diets-may-be-lost.html?_r=1&emc=eta1.

22 May 2012

Search for New President of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is seeking a new president to oversee the museum’s research, exhibits, and educational programs.  A visionary leader is sought to implement the museum’s recently adopted Master Plan.  For information about the museum, please visit www.SBNATURE.org.  For detailed information about the position, and in strict confidence, contact Robert M. Fisher, Ph.D., RUSHER LOSCAVIO Executive Search, bfisher@rll.com.

22 May 2012

Video of Dual Use Research Workshop Now Online

An archived video of the National Institutes for Health/National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity December 2011 workshop is now available online.  The workshop, “The Intersection of Science and Security: a Case Study Approach,” examined dual use research, life science research that has the potential to be misused to threaten public health or national security.  The workshop included strategies for managing dual use research and case studies of how these issues are being addressed around the globe.  Watch a video of the workshop at http://oba.od.nih.gov/biosecurity/internationalwebcast.html#Dec2011.

21 May 2012

Calling All Biologists: Showcase Science to Policymakers

This August, the NSC Alliance is sponsoring the 4th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.  This national initiative encourages members of the science community to meet with their elected officials.  Unlike other efforts to educate members of Congress about the importance of scientific research and education programs, this event occurs across the country – not in Washington, DC.

As part of Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits, scientists and representatives of research facilities will meet with their members of Congress to describe how science is conducted and why a sustained investment in research and education programs must be a national priority.  Participating scientists will meet with their elected officials at a district office or may invite them to visit a research laboratory, field site, or natural history collection.

Participants will receive information about federal funding for biological and environmental research, tools for improving their communication skills, and tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official.  Participating scientists will receive guidance and some assistance with scheduling meetings.

Participation is free, but registration will close on 15 July 2012.  For more information and to register, visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html.

16 May 2012

Applications Being Accepted for the 2013 iDigBio Visiting Scholars Program

The NSF-funded iDigBio project is seeking applications for its 2013 Visiting Scholars Program. This program is directed towards early-career collections and informatics-based professionals with demonstrated interest in digitization, particularly those who broaden representation within this academic and professional community.

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16 May 2012

Invite Your Members of Congress to a Science Briefing on Collections

On 5 June 2012, the Natural Science Collections Alliance will host a science briefing for policymakers in Washington, DC. Natural science collections are research facilities and infrastructure that house irreplaceable specimens and data. This program, “Digitizing Science Collections: Unlocking Data for Research and Innovation,” will explore how new technologies and techniques make it possible to move this information from the shelves of a science collection to a computer in a research laboratory, classroom, or home. This briefing will explore how scientists and natural science collection managers are working to digitize the nation’s natural science collections to press forward the frontiers of research, spur new technology, and provide information to answer pressing societal problems.

Please take a few moments to send an invitation to your members of Congress to encourage them to attend this important science briefing.

Take action at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61339071.

15 May 2012

National Initiative Launched to Change the Way Biology Departments Approach Undergraduate Education

A new national initiative promises to improve college biology education by engaging faculty members in an effort to change how post-secondary life sciences departments approach education.  PULSE, which stands for Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education, is a collaborative effort funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).  Program organizers also announced today that they are accepting applications from faculty members interested in becoming Vision and Change Leadership Fellows – individuals who will lead a national effort to stimulate systemic change in how post-secondary educational institutions approach biology education.  The intent of the program is to develop a strategy to implement the findings from a 2011 report.

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09 May 2012

House of Representatives to Vote on NSF Funding

The House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debating legislation on 8 May 2012 that would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies in fiscal year 2013.  Importantly, this bill (H.R. 5326) will determine how much funding will be available for NSF’s scientific research and education programs in the coming year.

The legislation, as approved by the House Appropriations Committee, is supportive of NSF.  The agency would receive $7.3 billion, $299 more than this year.  The budget line that funds NSF’s research directorates would receive a 4 percent increase.  Education funding would increase by 5 percent.  The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would remain essentially flat at the fiscal year 2012 level.  Funding for agency operations and grant administration would also remain flat.

It is important that members of Congress are reminded by their constituents of the importance of sustained federal investment in our nation’s scientific research enterprise.  Please take a few moments now to send a prepared letter to your Representative to urge his/her support for NSF.

Take action at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61299141.

07 May 2012

NSC Alliance Congressional Briefing on Digitization Nears, Plan to Attend

On Tuesday, 5 June 2012, the Natural Science Collections Alliance will sponsor a science briefing for congressional lawmakers in Washington, DC.  The briefing, which will take place in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building from 2:00-3:00 p.m., will provide policymakers with information about how digitization of specimens and associated data are increasing access to natural science collections for research, education, and other societal benefits.

All interested individuals are welcome to attend this public event.

Program speakers:

  • Dr. Mary Liz Jameson, Associate Professor, Wichita State University
    “The Value of Biological Collections to Science, Education, and the Economy”
  • Dr. Larry Page, President, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Curator of Fishes, Florida Museum of Natural History
    “Digitization: Exponentially Increasing Access to Collections Data”
  • Dr. Michael A. Mares, Director, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and Professor of Zoology, University of Oklahoma
    “Protecting and Using America’s Irreplaceable Resource Now and in the Future”

RSVP for the briefing at http://www.aibs.org/rsvp/digitization.html.

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