New & Noteworthy

Archive for December, 2014

30 Dec 2014

Article on Value of Curators

An article in the December 2014 issue of CLS Journal of Museum Studies, published by the University of Oklahoma, highlights the value of curators to university and museum collections. The article presents the results of a survey of curators. Read “Preliminary Quantification of Curator Success in Life Science Natural History Collections” for free at

30 Dec 2014

Deadline Extended for the Heritage Health Information 2014 Survey

The deadline for the Heritage Health Information 2014: A National Collections Care Survey has been extended to 13 February 2015. If you have not had the opportunity to complete your survey, now is the time.

Invitations to participate were sent to institution directors in October. These invitations included personalized login information, which may be entered at If you need your invitation re-sent, please contact or (202) 233-0824.

Heritage Health Information 2014 is sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Libraries Services and the National Endowments for the Humanities & Arts. The Natural Science Collections Alliance is serving as an allied partner in the effort.

22 Dec 2014

NSC Alliance Announces 2014 Accomplishments

In 2014, the NSC Alliance engaged in a number of notable activities to raise the profile of natural history collections with policymakers, researchers, and the general public. A few highlights are presented below:

  • Partnered with the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections to launch a national initiative to build a biocollections community that is able to fully implement and achieve the goals of the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. The project is supported by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
  • After years of advocacy from NSC Alliance and the scientific collections community, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a directive to federal agencies to develop policies to improve the management of and access to federal scientific collections.
  • Sponsored a symposium with iDigBio on the future of scientific collections. The event furthered community discussions related to
    national digitization efforts.
  • Provided testimony to House and Senate Appropriations Committees in support of increased funding for research, curation, and digitization of natural history collections from the National Science Foundation and the Department of the Interior.
  • Read all of NSC Alliance’s accomplishments from 2014.

19 Dec 2014

Image of Insect Collections Among Photo Contest Winners

Daniel Le, the Botany Collection’s Digital Media Specialist at The Field Museum, won Second Place in the Faces of Biology Photo Contest. His photo depicts Allie Stone working with tropical butterflies from the museum’s vast collections. Stone and Le collaborated on a project to digitally image natural history specimens.

The Faces of Biology Photo Contest is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. See the winning photos at

15 Dec 2014

AMNH Debuts New Video Series on Collections

The America Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has created a new video series that will explore the museum’s scientific collections. The first episode of “Shelf Life” highlights the diversity of the 33 million items in the collection. New episodes will premiere monthly at

15 Dec 2014

New Smithsonian Initiative to Focus on Genomics

The Smithsonian Institution has launched a new initiative to better understand biodiversity genomics.

“Our goal is to pioneer novel genomic approaches, integrate them into biological endeavors throughout the Smithsonian and serve as a resource for genomics research around the world,” said Pierre Comizzoli, research biologist and Director of the Grand Challenges Consortia for Science at the Smithsonian. “The Institute for Biodiversity Genomics will be a platform to convene both the leading scientists in this emerging field as partners, as well as post-doctoral students and fellows for training and education.”

The four areas of focus for the research initiative will be:

  • Diversity Genomics: What are the origins of life and how are species related across the globe?
  • Evolutionary Genomics: How does the blueprint of life vary among individuals and species and what does this mean for their ability to adapt?
  • Ecological Genomics: How do ecosystems work and what makes them resilient to change?
  • Conservation Genomics: How do we sustain biodiversity and protect species and ecosystems?

15 Dec 2014

Results of NSC Alliance Board Elections

Three new board members and two incumbent board members have been elected to the NSC Alliance Board of Directors.

  • Dr. Robert J. Baker was re-elected to the Board of Directors. Dr. Baker is Director and Curator of Mammals and Genetic Resources in the Natural Sciences Research Laboratory at the Museum of Texas Tech University. His research centers on genome organization and evolution biology of mammals.
  • Dr. Joseph A. Cook was re-elected to the Board of Directors. Dr. Cook is Director of the Museum of Southwest Biology at the University of New Mexico. His research interests include biotic conservation, historical biogeography, and systematics, speciation, and natural history of subterranean mammals.
  • Dr. Shelley James is an Associate Botanist at the Pacific Center for Molecular Biodiversity at the Bishop Museum. Her research interests include the flora of New Guinea, herbarium curation and digitization, and conservation genetics.
  • Dr. Gil Nelson is a Faculty Researcher at the Institute for Digital Information and Scientific Communication at Florida State University. He is also a writer who specializes in botany, natural history, and ecology in Florida.
  • Dr. Rebecca Rundell is an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Her research focuses on the patterns of biological diversification and the factors underlying those patterns.

NSC Alliance would also like to thank outgoing board members Dr. Warren Allmon, Dr. Hank Bart, Dr. James Hanken, Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, Dr. David Mindell, Dr. Bonnie Styles, and Dr. Quentin Wheeler for their service for the past six years. Per the organization’s bylaws, representatives at large are limited to serving two consecutive three-year terms.

10 Dec 2014

Congress Releases Final Funding Plan for FY 2015

With only days left before a stopgap funding measure expires, Congress finally found agreement on federal funding levels for fiscal year (FY) 2015. The deal was reached more than two months after the fiscal year began.

The lead negotiators on the deal released a joint statement about the legislation: “As we close in on our December 11 deadline, we now ask that the House and Senate take up and pass this bill as soon as possible, and that the President sign it when it reaches his desk,” wrote Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY). “The American people deserve the certainty of a continuously functioning and responsible government, and the knowledge that both parties in Congress have heard their demands and have worked cooperatively on their behalf.”

Notably, the National Science Foundation would receive a 2.4 percent increase over the current level, for a total of $7.34 billion. This is higher than President Obama requested, but less than the amount passed by the House of Representatives. Research funding would grow by $125 million and education programs would be boosted by nearly $20 million. This would enable the agency to award 350 new competitive grants in 2015.

The bill has yet to be voted on by either chamber of Congress, but is expected to be considered soon.

10 Dec 2014

Paper Assesses the Value of Natural History Collections

An article in the December 2014 issue of BioScience considers the benefits of natural history collections and offers advice for the financial support of such collections. “Assessing the Value of Natural History Collections and Addressing Issues Regarding Long-Term Growth and Care” was written by several research staff at the Natural Science Research Laboratory at the Museum of Texas Tech University. Access the article at

08 Dec 2014

NPS Releases Draft Rule Regarding Curation of Archaeological Collections

The National Park Service is proposing changes to the regulations regarding curation of federally-owned and administered archeological collections. The rule, if adopted, would establish definitions, standards, and procedures to dispose of particular material remains that are determined to be of insufficient archaeological interest. There is not currently a defined process for disposition of such materials.

The draft rule would apply to artifacts, objects, specimens, and other physical evidence, including human remains, of a historic or prehistoric resource and of historic or prehistoric cultures. It would not impact any material remains regulated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Public comment on the draft rule will be accepted until 17 February 2015. For more information, visit

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