New & Noteworthy

Archive for May, 2012

02 May 2012

NSF Awards Second Round of Digitization Grants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded six new grants as part of the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program.  The program aims to increase accessibility of biological collections and associated data.  The latest round of funding will support four major grants and two smaller projects.

According to a press release by NSF, the new awards will increase the diversity of organisms to be digitized and enhance the development of techniques to digitize specimens.

“The collections being digitized are unprecedented in their worth to research and education, and hold huge potential for future development and integration with other biological data from genomes to phenomes,” said Dr. John Wingfield, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences. “With the diversity of information digitized, these projects are addressing issues of interoperability, access and analysis–’big data.’ The benefits will be felt for many generations to come.”

Four new Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs) will be funded.  Last year, NSF announced funding for the first three TCNs, as well as for a national entity.  The new TCNs are:

  • Mobilizing New England Vascular Plant Specimen Data to Track Environmental Changes
  • Digitizing Fossils to Enable New Syntheses in Biogeography - Creating a PALEONICHES-TCN
  • The Macrofungi Collection Consortium: Unlocking a Biodiversity Resource for Understanding Biotic Interactions, Nutrient Cycling and Human Affairs
  • Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN): A Model for Collections Digitization to Promote Taxonomic and Ecological Research

Additionally, two new Partners to Existing Networks were announced.  These smaller grants will enhance existing TCNs by adding their collections to fill gaps identified in the original network proposals.  The new partner awards will focus on digitization of subtropical bryophytes and lichens, as well as high altitude lichens.

01 May 2012

United Nations Forms New Entity to Study, Preserve Biodiversity

After several years of negotiations, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was formally established.  The new independent body will be hosted in Bonn, Germany.

IPBES aims to address the accelerating loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services around the globe by bridging the gap between accurate and impartial science and policymakers.

“Today, biodiversity won,” said Sir Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor of the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in a statement on 23 April.  “Over 90 governments successfully established the science-policy interface for all countries.  Biodiversity and ecosystem services are essential for human wellbeing.  This platform will generate the knowledge and build the capacity to protect them for this and future generations.”

IPBES will provide four core functions: 1) identify and prioritize key scientific information needed for policymakers and catalyze efforts to generate new knowledge; 2) perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services; 3) support policy formulation and implementation by identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies; and 4) prioritize key capacity-building needs to improve the science-policy interface.

IPBES is “critically important to support implementation of the new Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity and to promote global sustainable development,” stated Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.  “We believe that IPBES can help ensure that developing countries and communities have access to sound scientific information to inform development policies, protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services in a way that addresses poverty alleviation and promotes growth with equity.”

01 May 2012

Museums Participate in MayDay, Prepare for Emergencies

Cultural institutions are invited to plan for emergencies and enter for a chance to win disaster preparedness supplies.  Museums, archives, and libraries are holding fire safety drills, updating disaster plans, and mapping emergency routes as part of the annual MayDay event.  Organizations are encouraged to submit their plans to Heritage Preservation by 31 May 2012 for the chance to win a prize package that includes a collections protection kit, leak alert water detectors, and more.  Enter the drawing at

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