New & Noteworthy

Archive for July, 2013

31 Jul 2013

Scientists to Meet with State and Federal Lawmakers

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is pleased to announce the start of the 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.  This national initiative encourages scientists across the nation to showcase for federal and state lawmakers the people, facilities, and equipment required to conduct scientific research.  The event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

“Scientific innovation drives advances in agriculture, biotechnology, environmental management, and medicine, and plays a leading role in job creation and economic growth,” said Dr. Richard O’Grady, AIBS Executive Director.  “These meetings provide the opportunity for biologists to demonstrate the benefits of research.”

The 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event occurs during the month of August.  Participating scientists meet with elected officials and their staff at the local district office or a research facility.

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31 Jul 2013

Senate and House Panels Support Funding Increase for NSF

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is poised to receive a sizeable increase in fiscal year 2014 if congressional appropriators have their way. In July, House and Senate panels each advanced funding bills for the agency that would provide new funding. The 1.6 percent increase proposed in the House would mean an additional $111 million for NSF over the current, post-sequestration level. The Senate panel is backing a $542 million increase (7.9 percent increase). NSF is currently funded at $6.9 billion.

Both pieces of legislation prioritize NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which includes the Biological Sciences Directorate. NSF’s research portfolio would be boosted by 8.6 percent by the Senate and 2.4 percent by the House. The chambers differ in their proposals for education and facilities. The Education and Human Resources account would increase by 5.6 percent if the Senate plan is adopted, but would be cut by one percent under the House mark. Similarly, the House proposes a 7 percent cut for funding of facilities and major equipment; the Senate recommends a 7 percent increase.

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25 Jul 2013

NSF Awards Third Round of Grants to Advance Digitization of Biodiversity Collections

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

“The ADBC program continues to grow in the breadth of its collections, including fossils, and in the depth of additional information about each specimen,” says John Wingfield, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences.

According to a press release from NSF, digital photos of specimens will be linked with related information, such as pathogens found on the specimens, stratigraphic information for fossils, and environmental variables at the collecting localities.

Three new Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs) will be funded.  There are seven existing TCNs.  The new TCNs are:

  • Fossil Insect Collaborative: A Deep-Time Approach to Studying Diversification and Response to Environmental Change
  • Developing a Centralized Digital Archive of Vouchered Animal Communication Signals
  • The Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium: Accessing 150 Years of Specimen Data to Understand Changes in the Marine/Aquatic Environment

Additionally, five new Partners to Existing Networks (PEN) grants were announced. These smaller grants will enhance existing TCNs by adding their collections to fill gaps identified in the original network proposals. Two new partner awards will focus on increasing the coverage of the Paleoniches TCN, which is focused on ages and localities not included in other TCNs.  Three other PENs will expand the Southwest Arthropod Network, add central Midwest specimens to the InvertNet TCN, and add two historically important collections to the lichen and bryophyte TCN.

25 Jul 2013

Participate in the U.S. Virtual Herbarium Survey

The 2013 U.S. Virtual Herbarium Survey is now online.  This survey is designed to assess the progress herbaria in the United States are making towards the goal of making records of all specimens in all U.S. herbaria available online.  The information provided by survey participants is used in reports, grant proposals, and articles highlighting a herbarium’s need for support or advertizing its accomplishments.  Participate in the survey at

03 Jul 2013

A Reason Why Natural History Collections Are So Important

A recent post on the blog “The Lab and Field” explored why natural history museums are “essential for science.”  The blogger described his recent use of bird specimens to study moult energetics in Least Auklets.  The species spends most of the year over the Pacific Ocean, where they are inaccessible to researchers.  Using 60 specimens of Least Auklets from museum collections in Canada, the U.S., Russia, and Japan, the researcher was able to determine moulting patterns throughout the year, not just when the species is on land for breeding.  Learn more at