New & Noteworthy

Archive for February, 2017

16 Feb 2017

Plant Conservation Legislation Introduced

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to support the botanical research capacity of the federal government. H.R. 1054 is sponsored by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

The bill emphasizes the importance of protecting native plants and addresses botanical workforce issues. It would create a new program of botanical science research within the Department of the Interior to help increase federal botanic expertise and would allow Interior to hire additional botanical personnel. The bill would create a student loan repayment program for botanists. It would also create a preference for federal agencies to use locally-adapted native plant materials in their land management activities.

“One of our nation’s greatest assets is its biodiversity, which is why we must support the health of these ecosystems, as well as the dedicated scientists that have made our earth’s preservation their life’s work,” said Quigley in statement. “I am pleased that this bill will support their mission to sustain native and locally adapted plants so that America remains a vibrant, inspiring, and sustainable place to call home.”

“Introducing this bill with my colleague, Mike, is a positive step in ensuring the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native species that characterize our communities and nation,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “We have a responsibility to help maintain a healthy and sound ecosystem that we can all be proud of. I’m glad that this bill will also encourage young people to enter careers in botanical science.”

The U.S. is projected to lose roughly half of its botanical experts in the next decade due to retirements. Some federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management have already reported a deficiency in their botanical workforce. Meanwhile, fewer advanced degrees in botany are being awarded.

08 Feb 2017

Washington Post Article on Digitization

A recent article published by the Washington Post on “This is how you photograph a million dead plants without losing your mind” explores the mechanics of herbaria specimen digitization. Three Smithsonian employees use a conveyor belt to photograph the museum’s botany collection, which encompasses 5 million specimens.

Read the article at

01 Feb 2017

Scientific Societies Speak Out on Immigration

The Natural Science Collections Alliance signed a letter, along with 150 other scientific organizations, to express concern over a recent Executive Order issued by President Trump.

The executive order, signed on 27 January 2017, prevents citizens of seven countries from traveling into the U.S. Federal courts subsequently suspended the travel ban while the case is being considered. Moreover, a federal judge in Virginia issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the travel ban from being implemented in the state.

“The Executive Order will discourage many of the best and brightest international students, scholars, engineers and scientists from studying and working, attending academic and scientific conferences, or seeking to build new businesses in the United States,” states the letter. “Implementation of this policy will compromise the United States’ ability to attract international scientific talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership.”

Another letter circulated within the scientific community has received more than 43,000 signatures in opposition to the travel ban, including more than 60 Nobel Laureates and 500 members of the National Academies.

Read the multi-society letter at