New & Noteworthy

Archive for July, 2012

26 Jul 2012

New Director Named for National Museum of Natural History

Dr. Kirk Johnson has been selected to lead the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  He is currently chief curator and vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Dr. Johnson will start his new position on 29 October 2012.

“Kirk brings an established national and international reputation as a top scientist, educator and museum administrator to the National Museum of Natural History,” said Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian.   “He is a perfect match to lead the museum—among the very best in the world—into the next decade.”

Johnson will oversee more than 460 employees, an annual federal budget of $68 million, and a collection of more than 126 million specimens and artifacts—the largest collection at the Smithsonian.  The Natural History Museum hosts an average of 7 million visitors a year.  Its scientists publish about 500 scientific research contributions a year.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in geology and fine arts from Amherst College, a master’s degree in geology and paleobotany from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in geology and paleobotany from Yale University.

Johnson succeeds Cristián Samper, who is leaving the Smithsonian to become president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society headquartered in New York City.  Jonathan Coddington, associate director for research and collections, will serve as acting director of the museum until Johnson’s arrival in October.

26 Jul 2012

NSC Alliance Sponsors Webinar to Help Scientists Engage in Public Policy

A new online presentation sponsored by the NSC Alliance aims to inform biologists about proposed federal funding for science and how individual scientists can help secure increased funding for competitive, peer-reviewed grant programs.  The webinar, presented as part of the 4th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event, features information regarding federal appropriations for biological and environmental research, tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official, and resources to craft and communicate an effective message.

The webinar was presented by policy staff from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) to participants of the 4th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.  NSC Alliance is a sponsor of the event, which will take place throughout the month of August 2012.  This nationwide event encourages scientists to meet with their members of Congress in their home state in order to showcase the people, equipment, and facilities that are required to support and conduct scientific research.

As a sponsor of this event, NSC Alliance is able to offer our members access to a recording of this webinar program until September 9, 2012.  The webinar can be viewed for free at

26 Jul 2012

Participate in Collections Care Professionals Survey

The American Institute for Conservation has created a survey to help identify the opportunities and challenges facing collections care professionals today.  Collections professionals are encouraged to take the short survey at

The survey closes on 30 August 2012.

06 Jul 2012

Action Alert: House Bill Would Cut Funding for Biology Research at USGS

Ecosystem and biological research programs at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) could be cut by $28.8 million (-18 percent) if the House of Representative’s Interior and Environment Appropriations bill is enacted in its current form.  This is a disproportionate reduction when compared with other USGS programs and with the agency as a whole.

The research and monitoring programs that comprise the Ecosystems account within USGS are vital to the nation.  These scientific activities help decision makers within other Interior bureaus, states, local governments, and the private sector to understand the status of our living resources.  Much of this information is only collected by the USGS.  Without it, our efforts to combat invasive species, manage endangered and threatened species, address wildlife diseases, or restore degraded landscapes would be severely hampered.

The proposed cuts to USGS research include:

  • $8.5 million from wildlife and terrestrial endangered species research;
  • $7.5 million from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystem studies;
  • $4.6 million from fisheries research;
  • $4.4 million from monitoring of species and habitat status and trends; and
  • $3.8 million from the Cooperative Research Units, which are partnerships among universities, states, and USGS to conduct biological research in 38 states.

The House bill would spare a few biological programs at USGS from reductions.  The invasive species and contaminant biology programs would both be flat funded at the 2012 level.  Notably, the biological information management and delivery program would receive a $5.6 million increase.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the legislation at the end of June.  The timeline for further action by the House of Representatives is currently unclear, but the Senate Appropriations Committee could consider their version of the fiscal year 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill in the next few weeks.

Please take a few minutes to contact your Senators to share your concerns about these proposed cuts and to encourage them to oppose spending cuts to biological and ecosystems research at the USGS.  Your voice is critical to defending these important scientific programs.

Take action at

03 Jul 2012

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Science education is becoming more interactive through the use of technology and inquiry-based learning.  Help the public and policymakers to better understand these new directions in science education by entering the Faces of Biology: Teaching and Learning.  The contest is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The contest is an opportunity to showcase science education.  Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person or persons engaging in science education.  Any level of education (K-12, undergraduate, graduate, or adult) is eligible.  The depicted education may occur in a classroom, laboratory, museum, natural history collection, botanical garden, zoo, or elsewhere.  Photos of education in any discipline of science, not just biology, are welcome.

The Grand Prize Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.  The First and Second Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

The contest ends on September 30, 2012 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.

For more information and to enter the contest, visit