About the Natural Science Collections Alliance


The Natural Science Collections Alliance is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association that supports natural science collections, their human resources, the institutions that house them, and their research activities for the benefit of science and society.

Our members are part of an international community of museums, botanical gardens, herbariums, universities and other institutions that house natural science collections and utilize them in research, exhibitions, academic and informal science education, and outreach activities.

Membership in the NSC Alliance links you to a network of institutions, scientists and other professionals in North America through which you can share news, information and common concerns - and help shape the future of our community.

 


NSC Alliance in the News



Published on 13 Aug 2018

Collections in the News

According to a report from WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will begin digitizing its collection of plant specimens. About one third of the herbarium’s over 500,000 specimens will be scanned to high-resolution photographs and made available through a search engine, which contains data and images of plants from hundreds of collections across North America. The effort will focus on species collected in Pennsylvania and neighboring mid-Atlantic states. It is anticipated that this digitization work, made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation, will improve accessibility to plant specimens and enable new research opportunities such as computational analysis.

Published on 13 Aug 2018

Comments Requested on Proposed Revisions to Endangered Species Regulations

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released a joint proposal to make significant revisions to regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are inviting comments from the public for a period of 60 days.

ESA was enacted in 1973 with the goal of preventing plants and animals from becoming extinct. The Administration has proposed changes to the enforcement of ESA that would make it harder to provide protections for certain species.

The inter-agency proposal tightens the definition of “foreseeable future” for making crucial ESA decisions. This is in reference to the ESA requirement that USFWS or the National Marine Fisheries Service must determine whether a species is “in danger of extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future” when making a listing decision. Under the new proposal, foreseeable future only extends so far as officials “can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable.”

The proposal would also eliminate the “blanket 4(d)” rule, which allows the same broad protections for threatened species that are received by endangered species. This move, which would only cover future listings, would result in narrower protections, made on a case-by-case basis, for threatened species.

The Administration has also proposed removing language that guides officials to ignore economic burdens when determining how species should be protected. “We propose to remove the phrase, ‘without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination,’… to more closely align with the statutory language,” the proposed rule reads. “The act requires the secretary to make determinations based ‘solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data.’”

The proposal makes a key change to the designation of “critical habitats”, which are areas essential for recovery of a species. These areas are sometimes still considered “critical” when it is not occupied by the species in question. The new rules would allow USFWS and NOAA Fisheries to designate unoccupied areas “critical habitat” only when the occupied areas are inadequate for the conservation of the species or if inclusion of unoccupied areas would yield other specified advantages. This could potentially shrink critical habitat.

The proposal has raised concerns in the conservation community. Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of the Defenders of Wildlife and former Director of USFWS said, “These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives.” Clark expressed concerns that the changes “would undercut the effectiveness of the ESA and put species at risk of extinction.”

“These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today.”

The proposal, published in the Federal Register on July 25, 2018, will accept comments until September 24, 2018. Comments can be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.

Links to the Federal Register notices:
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-25/html/2018-15811.htm
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-25/html/2018-15810.htm
https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-25/html/2018-15812.htm

Published on 13 Aug 2018

Senate Approves Second Appropriations “Minibus”

The Senate has passed a second appropriations package for fiscal year (FY) 2019, including the funding for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

This marked the first time since FY 2010 that the Senate debated and approved an Interior and Environment spending bill without considering it as a part of a year-end omnibus spending package. Lawmakers adopted 58 amendments before approving the “minibus” package, including one for expanding federal actions to address lead in drinking water and another for fighting algal blooms. An amendment to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund was not adopted, despite receiving some bipartisan support.

The spending package will now go to conference with the House, which passed its version of the “minibus” earlier in July.

The Senate bill would provide the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies $35.9 billion, about $600 million more than the House bill. EPA would receive flat funding at $8.05 billion under the Senate bill, while the House bill would slash its budget by 100 million. The U.S. Geological Survey will receive flat funding under the Senate bill and a slightly increased budget under the House bill.

Senate appropriators would provide $1.3 billion (+$11 million) for the Bureau of Land Management, $3.2 billion (+13.4 million) for the National Park Service, $1.6 billion (-$19.7 million) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, $6.29 billion for the U.S. Forest Service, and $1.043 billion (flat) for the Smithsonian Institution. Both bills have largely ignored the deep cuts proposed to the Department of Interior and EPA by the President.

The agriculture spending bill approved by Senate provides $2.73 billion (-10 percent) to agricultural research, including $1.301 billion (-$42 million) for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), $1.425 billion (+$17 million) for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and $405 million (+$5 million) for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

The first “minibus” spending package, which provides funding for Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs was approved by both chambers in June and is expected to be ready for the President’s signature by early September. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) intends to “steer clear” of another year-end omnibus spending package and said that the Senate will be in session for most of August to work on appropriations. Appropriators have indicated that the next spending package they consider could potentially combine spending bills for Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which account for 75 percent of all discretionary spending.

Published on 13 Aug 2018

White House Nominates Science Adviser

President Trump has nominated Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, a meteorologist and Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma, to be the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Droegemeier will serve as the President’s chief science adviser.

The Director of OSTP advises the Administration on issues ranging from funding priorities to opportunities to improve policy coordination across federal departments and agencies. Historically, the head of OSTP has also played important roles in providing timely scientific input on matters related to public health, safety and security.

Droegemeier has expertise in extreme-weather forecasting and has led two National Science Foundation (NSF) funded centers, one focused on predicting storms and the other on adaptive atmospheric sensing. He has served on the National Science Board (NSB)—the governing body for the National Science Foundation—having been nominated by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Droegemeier has been a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma for 33 years. He also serves as the Secretary of Science and Technology for Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) and has worked on weather and climate issues for former Governor Brad Henry (D-OK). Droegemeier earned his Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

In 2013, Droegemeier testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment that climate models “can be useful for determining future environments” and the potential for extreme storms. “Our understanding of, and ability to predict, high-impact weather will improve climate model representations of storms, precipitation, the radiation budget and even chemical processes,” he said.

Droegemeier co-authored an op-ed last year along with Daniel Reed, a former Vice President at Microsoft, warning about declining research spending in the United States. “U.S. government investment in basic research is now at a 40-year low as a percentage of [gross domestic product]. This places the ‘miracle machine’ in grave danger.”

The President’s nominee has received support from the scientific community. According to John Holdren, who served as OSTP Director under President Obama, Dr. Droegemeier is a “respected senior scientist and an experienced adviser on science policy to state and national leaders.” He said, “I expect he’ll be energetic in defending the R&D budget and climate change research in particular.”

The position of OSTP Director has been vacant for more than 18 months, a record length of time. During the Trump Administration, the number of OSTP staff has dropped from 135 under President Obama to 35 last year. The number has since grown to 60 under Acting Director Michael Kratsios.

Published on 18 Jul 2018

Lawmakers Introduce Legislation Regulating Invasive Species

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) have introduced bicameral legislation, the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2018, that would give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) greater authority to “regulate nonnative species and prohibit them from being imported or sold in the United States.”

Presently, more than 200 species have been listed as “injurious wildlife,” a designation given by the USFWS to species considered harmful to wildlife and natural resources in the United States. These species cannot be imported into the country or sold without a USFWS permit. However, under the current system, the designation is given only after a species has already been introduced.

The bipartisan legislation would address the invasive species threat before they are imported by establishing a new injurious species listing process based on scientific risk analysis. The bill would also give USFWS the power to make emergency designations for species that pose an “imminent threat.” The bill does not impose restrictions on the import of dead natural history museum specimens or scientific collections as long as the specimen is adequately preserved to minimize the risk of exposure from any harmful pathogens or parasites.

“Whether it’s Asian Carp in our lakes or the Emerald Ash Borer in our forests, invasive species threaten our environment and our economy, and we have to do everything we can to block them from coming into our state,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act would help better protect our precious natural resources, strengthen our economy, draw tourism to our state, and provide clean drinking water to New Yorkers.”

Asian Carp is a prominent threat to the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water to over 30 million people and support a $7 billion fishing industry and a $15.5 billion boating industry. Ash trees across 31 states have been infested by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle resulting in negative ecological impacts.

Representative Stefanik said, “This important bill will give the Fish and Wildlife Service needed flexibility to regulate and combat invasive pests that threaten our region, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support it.”

Published on 25 Jun 2018

Joint Stakeholder Statement on Promoting Sustainable Use and Conservation of Biodiversity Through Open Exchange of Digital Sequence Information

The Natural Science Collections Alliance has joined with more than 50 other leading scientific organizations from around the world to express a shared concern with emerging proposals on the regulation of use of digital sequence information.

The statement was issued in response to “activities pursuant to the decisions at the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) (Decision XIII/16) and the Nagoya Protocol (NP) (Decision NP-2/14) to “consider any potential implications of the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources for the first three objectives of the CBD and the objective of the NP”.”

The joint statement reads, in part, “As key stakeholders, the signatory organizations are vigilant about the potentially harmful effect of inappropriate or overly burdensome regulation of genetic resources. They are therefore greatly concerned about proposals to apply ABS obligations to DSI. Such obligations would place additional hurdles on biological research – with potentially negative consequences for the advancement of science and the huge societal value this generates, as well as for achieving the three objectives of the CBD.”

Read the full statement here.

Published on 20 Jun 2018

NSC Alliance Members Invited to Inform Science Policy This Summer

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is pleased to announce that your organization, as an Alliance member, is eligible to participate in the 2018 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative is an opportunity for scientists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.

There is a pressing need for the scientific community to engage with policymakers about the value of natural history collections in research and education. As called for in the recent report from the Biodiversity Collections Network, “The community must do a better job of communicating outcomes and benefits of digitization efforts to policymakers, administrators, other scientists, and the public.”

The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event enables scientists, curators, museum professionals, and graduate students to meet with their elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite an elected official to tour their research facility or can meet at the lawmaker’s local office. Meetings will take place mid-July through October, depending on the participant’s schedule.

NSC Alliance members who participate will receive one-on-one support and online training to prepare them for their tour or meeting.

The event is open to all types of natural science collections, including biological, geological, and anthropological collections.

Participation is free for NSC Alliance members, but registration will close on July 19, 2018. To register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html.

Published on 07 May 2018

NSC Alliance Provides Testimony in Support of Federal Funding for Science Collections

The NSC Alliance provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding funding for certain programs that curate natural history collections. The testimony addressed programs within the Department of the Interior and Smithsonian Institution.

“Scientific collections are critical infrastructure for our nation’s research enterprise. Research specimens connect us to the past, are used to solve current societal problems, and are helping to predict threats to human health, methods for ensuring food security, and the impact of future environmental changes. Sustained investments in scientific collections are in our national interest.”

NSC Alliance urged Congress to make additional investments in the National Museum of Natural History that will allow the museum to undertake critical collections care, make needed technology upgrades, and conduct cutting edge research. The testimony also requested lawmakers to support adequate funding for programs within the Department of the Interior, such as the Biological Survey Unit, that support the preservation and use of scientific collections.

Read the testimony here.

Published on 26 Apr 2018

NSC Alliance Urges Congress to Support Federal Funding for NSF

The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, highlighting the importance and role of natural history collections.

“Natural science collections advance research that improves public health, agriculture, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and American innovation. Current research involving natural science collections also contributes to the development of new cyberinfrastructure, data visualization tools, and improved data management.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a key federal supporter of scientific collections. NSF supports research that uses existing collections as well as studies that gather new natural history specimens. NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO) and Geosciences (GEO) support research and student training opportunities in natural history collections. NSF also supports biological research infrastructure, such as natural history museums, living stock collections, and field stations.

The testimony called for $8.45 billion for NSF in fiscal year 2019.

Read the NSC Alliance testimony.

Published on 03 Apr 2018

BCoN 2018 Webinar Series

The Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) will convene a series of webinar programs in 2018 to share information about BCoN activities with the community and to receive community input on prior and pending BCoN programs. These webinars will include a formal presentation followed by an opportunity for participants to ask questions and share information. All programs will be recorded and posted to the BCoN website.

NIBA: A Status Report from BCoN

In 2017, the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) convened a two-day workshop of biodiversity collections community stakeholders to review community progress toward the goals and objectives outlined in the Strategic and Implementation Plans for a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. This webinar will summarize the findings from that workshop.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on April 25, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Robert Gropp, American Institute of Biological Sciences
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Collections Communications: A Report from BCoN

One goal of the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) is the identification of ways for the community to sustainably advance the goals and objectives outlined in the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA) strategic and implementation plans. Among these goals are improved community governance and the development of a community positioned to sustainably advance the digitization efforts associated with biodiversity collections. Toward this end, BCoN recognized that improved communication with various stakeholders within and outside of the biodiversity collections community is essential. BCoN thus organized a workshop to identify communication needs and resources to help advance the goals of the NIBA and the community more generally. This webinar explores the recommendations arising from this workshop.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on May 2, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Robert Gropp, American Institute of Biological Sciences
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Data Attribution and Integration

This webinar will share insights gained from a BCoN organized workshop held at the University of Kansas in February 2018. The workshop brought together various data providers and users to discuss the biodiversity data pipeline and opportunities to increase integration and attribution.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on May 23, 2018.

Organizer: Mr. Andrew Bentley, Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Using Natural History Collections Data to Address National Challenges

This webinar will share insights from a recent survey conducted by iDigBio and BCoN and will use these findings to stimulate ideas and input from webinar participants about future needs and opportunities for the use of natural history collections data to advance science and contribute solutions to societal challenges. The information captured during this webinar will inform and guide discussions during a BCoN workshop planned for fall 2018.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on June 13, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Barbara Thiers, New York Botanical Garden
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Addressing Legal Issues Involved in Digitized Collections: The Nagoya Protocol as a Test Case

This webinar will summarize discussions and findings from a BCoN organized workshop held at Harvard University in March 2018 to address legal concerns associated with digitized collections and mitigating these issues using digital means. Participants with practical knowledge of how biological collections should manage legal issues in regards to changing policy, utilizing cyberinfrastructure, and advising stakeholders used compliance with the Nagoya Protocol as a test case to investigate how U.S. institutions must respond to the need for increased transparency of their biodiversity collections and the required digital tracking.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on June 27, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Linda Ford and Dr. Breda Zimkus, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Natural History Collections and Digital Biodiversity Data: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities

Natural History collections and the mobilization of specimen and occurrence based data has opened new opportunities for education and outreach. This webinar will introduce challenges and emerging opportunities for integrating specimen based data and natural history collections into the k-12 and undergraduate curriculum, citizen science efforts, and broadening participation initiatives.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on September 19, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University

Hosts: Dr. Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University; Dr. Molly Phillips, iDigBio; Dr. Libby Ellwood, La Brea Tar Pits & Museum; Dr. Debra Linton, Central Michigan University; and Dr. Lisa White, University of California, Berkeley

Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

Small Collections

Details: Coming soon.

This webinar program will be held 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on October 17, 2018.

Organizer: Dr. Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University, and Dr. John Bates, The Field Museum of Natural History & President, Natural Science Collections Alliance
Location: Online
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Click here to register for this webinar.

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