New & Noteworthy

Archive for February, 2016

24 Feb 2016

Survey on Outliers in Biodiversity Collections

iDigBio’s Outlier Detection and Documentation by Collectors (ODD Collectors) Working Group is conducting a survey related to your experience with “outliers” (or “anomalies” or “oddities”) in biodiversity collections. For this survey, outliers are defined as individual specimens that differ from a previously documented or perceived general norm within a taxon in any biological characteristic such as morphology, anatomy, distribution, behavior, phenology, or ecology.

Your responses will be anonymous. Responses are requested by 22 March 2016.

23 Feb 2016

Illinois State Museum Could Reopen

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) has announced a plan to reopen the state museum system, which was shuttered in September 2015 due to a budget impasse with the state legislature. The governor proposes to reopen four of the six museum sites and to start charging admission for the previously free museum.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources claims the changes would save about $1 million per year. In 2015, the governor’s office claimed the closure of all six sites would save $6 million annually.

The Illinois Senate and House had passed legislation last fall to attempt to reopen the museum. Through the use of an amendatory veto, Governor Rauner offers his own recommendations to the legislation. The legislature can either approve the changes or could override the changes with at least 60 percent of votes in each chamber.

23 Feb 2016

National Park Service Works with Google to Expand Public Access to Artifacts

Google’s Cultural Institute is partnering with the National Park Service to showcase culturally significant artifacts. The website provides high-resolution images of artifacts, documents, and photos. More than 3,800 federal objects are on display on the site.

The website also features art and objects from museum collections around the world.

Learn more at

23 Feb 2016

Save the Date: “Stressors and Drivers of Food Security: Evidence from Scientific Collections”

The ”Stressors and Drivers of Food Security: Evidence from Scientific Collections” symposium will be held on 18-20 May 2016. This will be the first-ever symposium that brings together food security researchers and experts on scientific collections in diverse research disciplines. The symposium will be an ambitious look forward into food security research that relies on evidence drawn from scientific across a broad range of disciplines.

The symposium prospectus and preliminary agenda can be found at

Participation will be limited to 100 and attendees will be selected to ensure a productive mixture of:

  • Researchers using diverse approaches to basic and applied research on food security and insecurity; and
  • Representatives of scientific collections in anthropology, archaeology, biomedicine, biodiversity, ecology, ethnobiology, geology, paleontology, parasitology, veterinary sciences, and others.

The US Department of Agriculture will host the symposium at the National Agriculture Library in Beltsville, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, on Wednesday to Friday, 18-20 May 2016. The symposium is being organized by Scientific Collections International.

The keynote speakers will be:

  • Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics, US Department of Agriculture, an ecosystems ecologist and USDA representative to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES);
  • Dr. Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, a pollination biologist at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Co-Chair of the IPBES Experts for thematic assessment of pollinators, pollination and food production; and
  • Dr. Gary Nabhan, an ethnobiologist, agroecologist, conservation biologist, cultural geographer, and W.K. Kellogg Chair in Southwest Borderlands Food and Water Security at the University of Arizona.

Express your interest in participating at

23 Feb 2016

Bell Museum Seeks New Executive Director

The University of Minnesota seeks an Executive Director who will oversee the Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium’s mission through its personnel, research/programs and facilities. The museum’s mission is to ignite curiosity and wonder, explore our connections to nature and the universe, and create a better future for our evolving world.

For more information, see the job description.

22 Feb 2016

Participate in WeDigBio 2016

Institutions that house biodiversity collections are encouraged to participate in the Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections Event. The event encourages citizen scientists and the public to assist in the digitization of natural history collections. Organizations can post images of specimens with their labels on a partner transcription platforms for transcription or host an on-site transcription event.

During its second year, WeDigBio 2015 aims to expand its reach. In 2015, thousands of citizen scientists from more than 50 countries transcribed specimen labels. This year, WeDigBio is expanding to include more onsite events and participants, more online participants from new parts of the world, and resources to help make the event even more fun, educational, and productive.

Learn more at

22 Feb 2016

Webinar on IMLS Museum Funding

Learn more about the Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) on February 24 at 3 pm EDT. The program supports small natural history collections with awards ranging from $5,000 to $150,000 to help with collections management, conservation surveys, treatments, environmental improvements, rehousing, professional development/training, digitization, and collections information management. The webinar will describe the goals of the grant program, examine institutional eligibility requirements, explore the types of projects supported, identify matching requirements, and offer suggestions for putting together a competitive application.

Participate at

09 Feb 2016

President Obama Releases His Final Budget Request

In his fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request to Congress, President Obama is seeking $152 billion for research and development, a four percent increase from the current funding level. The budget request includes a $900 million increase for basic research.

Highlights of proposed FY 2017 include:

  • Doubling federal investments in clean energy research and development over the next five years.
  • $755 million in new funding for cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment as part of the cancer “moonshot.”
  • $2 billion to create a coastal climate change resilience fund to help states and communities to prepare for and adapt to climate change. An additional $750 million would be directed to help developing nations reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
  • $88 million for NSF to support basic research on water in the hopes of enhancing domestic water supplies and quality.

Details about agency funding proposals will continue to be released over the next week, but this is what is known so far:

  • National Science Foundation: $7.96 billion (+$500.5 million). The proposed funding would support 10,100 new grants according to the agency. The Directorate for Biological Sciences would receive a 6.2 percent increase to $790.5 million.
  • National Institutes of Health: $33.1 billion (+$1.8 billion). The White House says that this amount of funding will support almost 10,000 new grants.
  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: $700 million (+$350 million) for competitively awarded extramural research grants.
  • Agricultural Research Service: nearly $1.2 billion for intramural research, including $94.5 million to modernize government agricultural research facilities.
  • Earth science within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $2.0 billion
  • Department of Energy, Office of Science: nearly $5.7 billion. The budget proposes a new $100 million competitive grant opportunity targeted solely at university-based researchers.

09 Feb 2016

The Atlantic Explores Museum Collections

A recent article in The Atlantic highlights the important role of natural history collections as a place of discovery. “Natural History Museums Are Teeming With Undiscovered Species” features the tales of researchers who have identified new species using specimens that were previously collected.

Dr. Evon Hekkala collected DNA from museum specimens of Nile crocodiles to discover that the species was actually two distinct species.

“I’m trying to create an army of young scientists who want to work with collections, and who will go through material like this,” says Hekkala. “I love that people are going on expeditions but we can do that in the drawers of museums.”

The article captures the wonder of what may be lurking under our noses and the valuable of this information. “Museum collections, then, are windows not just into the hidden diversity of today, but the lost diversity of yesterday.”

Read the article for free.