New & Noteworthy

Archive for August, 2013

29 Aug 2013

NSC Alliance, AIBS, and SPNHC Offer Information on Big Data

Three scientific organizations dedicated to the preservation and use of biocollections have provided comments to the federal government about digitization of natural history collections as part of ‘big data.’  The letter to the National Coordination Office (NCO) for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development outlines the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA), an initiative developed by the scientific community that will contribute to and benefit from big data collaborations.  The letter responded to a request for information on Big Data high-impact collaborations and areas for expanded collaboration between the public and private sectors.

An excerpt of the letter, signed by the presidents of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, follows:

“The NIBA is a national scientific, engineering, and data mobilization initiative.  When fully realized, NIBA will provide online access to digitized data for biological specimens held in natural history museums, university science departments, and government laboratories across the United States.  Scientists have amassed and curated more than one billion specimens in more than 2,500 institutions across the United States.  Once digitized, these specimens will represent millions or even billions of data points.  These specimens and their associated data are maintained for research and education and to inform wise decisions about the environment, public health, food security, and commerce.”

Click here to read the letter.

28 Aug 2013

Proposed NSCA Board Slate: Additional Nominations Accepted Until September 28, 2013

Annual NSCA Board elections are getting underway, as per the NSCA Bylaws, which state:

“The Nominating Committee shall furnish the names of nominees to the Secretary, who shall circulate them either in written or electronic form (e.g., web site) to the members at least thirty (30) days in advance of the election in order to provide for additional names to be nominated by the membership.  Nomination to the ballot from the membership requires written support from 10 members from any category of membership.”

Please click here (PDF) to view the slate of candidates proposed by the Nominating Committee.  Additional nominations (with written support from 10 members) may be sent to the Nominating Committee Chair, Larry Page, at

An online ballot for membership voting will be posted after nominations close.

23 Aug 2013

Museum Specimens Document Growing Mammal Brains

The brain size of some mammal species is getting larger, possibly due to human alterations in the natural environment.  University of Minnesota biologist Emilie C. Snell-Rood studied a collection of mammal skulls at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Snell-Rood studied ten species of small mammals, including mice, shrews, bats, and gophers.  Using skulls that were collected over the past century, her research team documented a six percent increase in brain size in white-footed mice and meadow voles collected in cities or suburbs, as compared to animals from rural areas.  Dr. Snell-Rood also found an increase in brain size in four species from rural parts of Minnesota.

Read the article published in the New York Times at

12 Aug 2013

Los Angeles Museum Redefines Expectations of Natural History

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is redefining public expectations.  In addition to displaying fossils, the museum has added exhibits of live animals, such as turtles and snakes.

One of the new exhibits looks at how people have influenced the environment in the Los Angeles area.

“Not only are we interpreting natural history. We also, as a part of our mission statement, are interpreting cultural history as well,” Jonathan Gillett, the museum’s assistant collections manager, told Voice of America.  “So it shows the way that the environment has influenced people and how people have influenced the environment.”

Learn more at