New & Noteworthy

Archive for March, 2017

29 Mar 2017

Opposition to the University of Louisiana Monroe’s Plan to Ditch Collections

The Natural Science Collections Alliance wrote to the president of the University of Louisiana Monroe about the university’s plans to rapidly dismantle its natural history collections.

“Natural history museums nationwide are experiencing renewed interest and vitality, so it is disturbing to learn that an emerging university is electing to jettison important research infrastructure and the educational benefits derived from this resource, especially the specimens and associated data gathered by your faculty over decades of research on the biological and ecological systems of northern Louisiana and across the region. These specimens and associated data are irreplaceable national treasures that are critically important to research into the natural history of Louisiana and surrounding region. Because the ULM collections also shed light on how regional biodiversity is changing in response to rapid environmental change, your natural history museum is of national importance.”

The letter called for the preservation of the collections at the university or for the collections to be moved to another institution.

Letter to University of Louisiana Monroe

29 Mar 2017

Smithsonian Focus of House Oversight Hearing

On March 28, the Committee on House Administration held an oversight hearing on the Smithsonian Institution. The brief, 40 minute long hearing focused mainly on Smithsonian’s strategic planning and the institution’s maintenance backlog.

Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) spoke to the value of the museums. “The Smithsonian Institution plays a critical role in collecting and preserving our nation’s history and culture … and advances critical scientific discovery and research.” He also raised the challenges the organization faces, including a growing maintenance backlog, balancing new strategic initiatives with available funding, and broadening public access to collections in person and digitally.

Dr. David J. Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian, spoke about the long-term value of Smithsonian collections. “Your investment in the Smithsonian is an investment in the civic, educational, scientific, and artistic life of our nation.” Skorton also highlighted the need to “greatly increasing digital access” to collections. To date, 29 million items have been digitized from Smithsonian’s collections of 154 million items.

Another issue raised during the hearing was the need to pay attention to “graying of the workforce” in curatorial and scientific ranks. Skorton stated that Smithsonian needs to be ready to hire a “renewed workforce.”

Representatives Robert Brady (D-PA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) also attended the hearing.

23 Mar 2017

PNAS Article on IsoBank

A new opinion piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences urges the creation of an IsoBank, a central repository for isotopic data.

The article is an outcome a workshop sponsored by the Biodiversity Collections Network, which NSC Alliance co-founded.

An excerpt of the article follows:

Stable isotopes encode and integrate the origin of matter; thus, their analysis offers tremendous potential to address questions across diverse scientific disciplines. Indeed, the broad applicability of stable isotopes, coupled with advancements in high-throughput analysis, have created a scientific field that is growing exponentially, and generating data at a rate paralleling the explosive rise of DNA sequencing and genomics. Centralized data repositories, such as GenBank, have become increasingly important as a means for archiving information, and “Big Data” analytics of these resources are revolutionizing science and everyday life.

Read the article at

08 Mar 2017

Botanical Research Fellowships

The Missouri Botanical Garden has announced a call for applications for the 2017 Al Gentry and Shirley Graham Fellowships. The Gentry Fellowship supports Latin American botanists. The Graham Fellowship supports scientists from Latin America, Madagascar, Vietnam,
and Tanzania who work in the field of botany/plant sciences. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2017. Learn more at