New & Noteworthy



Archive for January, 2017

25 Jan 2017

NSC Alliance Calls for Changes to Paleo Rule

In official comments to the Department of the Interior, the Natural Science Collections Alliance recommended several revisions to the draft rule on paleontological resources preservation.

The proposed rule is intended to address the management, collection, and curation of paleontological resources from federal lands using scientific principles and expertise, including collection in accordance with permits; curation in an approved repository; and maintenance of confidentiality of specific locality data.

Among the concerns expressed are the proposed prohibition on disclosing information about the specific location of paleontological resources and the burdensome permitting process. Under the proposed rule, the National Park Service and other Interior Bureaus would have their own permit application forms. Moreover, although the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service are all using DI Form 9002 (Paleontological Resource Use Permit Application), each bureau has its own instructions for how to complete each field on the form. The differences in the instructions are significant enough that an applicant would have to complete a new application for each permit they seek.

The letter also addresses the financial burdens faced by paleontological resources repositories. “The organizations that house paleontological resources bear a large financial burden in terms of storage, curation, and reporting requirements. Although many federal collections are curated by DOI, many others are located in non-governmental facilities, such as museums and universities. The federal government should do more to defray the associated costs of curation of federal paleontological resources. Ownership comes with financial responsibilities.”

Read NSC Alliance’s comments.

11 Jan 2017

New Collections-Based Workshop and Faculty Mentoring Network for Undergraduate Biology Educators

Are you interested in incorporating more real data into your undergraduate courses? Natural history collections have been digitizing (the process of converting information into a digital format) their holdings and making them available online, creating a vast resource for biodiversity data that educators can access!

Apply now to join the 2017 “Resources for Collections-Based Undergraduate Education” Faculty Mentoring Network. Participants will be introduced to new materials and modules that address fundamental biological principles using real biodiversity collections data. Accepted applicants will participate in virtual sessions and a two-day workshop (held on May 24-25, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida), and continue to collaborate and receive mentoring online as they customize and implement activities in their own classrooms.

This opportunity is part of a collaboration among iDigBio (Integrated Digitized Biocollections), QUBES (Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis), Kurator, AIM-UP! (Advancing Integration of Museum into Undergraduate Programs), and BLUE (Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education).

Applications are due February 6, 2017. Please visit https://qubeshub.org/groups/nhc_fmn to apply and for additional information about requirements, expectations, and funding opportunities.

If you have questions please contact Molly Phillips (mphillips@flmnh.ufl.edu) or Anna Monfils (monfi1ak@cmich.edu).

11 Jan 2017

NSC Alliance Calls for Increased Coordination on Soil Research

In comments provided to the federal government’s National Science and Technology Council, NSC Alliance called for efforts to build on existing research programs on soil biodiversity. The letter was submitted in response to a request for information on the “Framework for a Federal Strategic Plan for Soil Science.”

The letter also highlights the limited number of existing soil collections. “This has limited our ability to understand the soil biome and how it is being altered in response to changing environmental conditions. It has also hindered our ability to understand how soil biodiversity interacts with other biological diversity. These collections have been limited, in part, because of a lack of federal support to conduct these surveys and curate these collections. New investments are required.”

Read the letter.

10 Jan 2017

2016 Year in Review

In 2016, 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:

  • NSC Alliance led the effort to reverse the suspension of the Collections in Support of Biological Research program by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program was put on “hiatus” in the spring of 2016 pending agency review. In response to community opposition, NSF reinstated the program on a biennial basis.
  • Advocated to congressional lawmakers in support of increased funding for research, curation, and digitization of natural history collections for the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Department of the Interior.
  • Sent a letter signed by 63 scientific organizations to President-elect Trump about the role science should play in his administration.
  • Created two short reports on how natural history collections contribute to climate change research.
  • Gained five new institutional members: Berkeley Natural History Museums, Duke Lemur Center, Entomological Collections Network, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, and Milwaukee Public Museum.
  • Supported a bill to reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary federal agency that supports museum education programs, collections curation, and museum professional development.

Read the 2016 NSCA summary.