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  1. Building a National Community of Natural History Collections A Research Coordination Network Henry L. Bart, Jr. Tulane University Museum of Natural History L. Alan Prather Michigan State University Herbarium collectionsweb.org

  2. NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS SCOPE • Thousands of institutions with natural history collections in the US • The number of natural history specimens estimated to be 820,000,000 (Heritage Preservation 2005) • Document the diversity of life on Earth and provide a continuous record of biotic changes over the last few hundred years collectionsweb.org

  3. NATURAL HISTORY SPECIMENS • Natural history specimens and their associated data invaluable and irreplaceable • Basis of taxonomic science for centuries • Foundation of biological nomenclature • Basis for identification • Vouchers for faunas and floras • Tools for teaching collectionsweb.org

  4. NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS • 1,600 collections across the US (LINNE, Page et al. 2005) collectionsweb.org

  5. RESEARCH USE OF SPECIMENS • Natural history specimens used primarily in systematics research; trend likely to continue for some time • Landscape of systematics research changing; increasing focus on molecular techniques • Researchers of all kinds are requesting access to specimens and associated data; formats and media changing (digital images, destructive sampling) collectionsweb.org

  6. USER BASE EXPANDING • User base expanding: resource managers, agencies, NGOs, ordinary citizens • Navigating the maze of collections databases can be difficult • Most data not yet accessible in digital format collectionsweb.org

  7. CHALLENGES • Natural history collections community depleted, fragmented along taxonomic lines • No comprehensive catalogue of the collections in the US; major barrier to building a collections community • No current information on status and needs of natural history collections • Databasing, networking incomplete collectionsweb.org

  8. CHALLENGES • No centralized forum for communication among collections; only e-mail lists serving subsets of the community (e.g., NH-COLL, HERBARIA, TAXACOM, lists maintained by taxon based societies) • Lack of discourse across natural history collections has inhibited development of a common agenda for advancing collections-based research collectionsweb.org

  9. HUMAN RESOURCES • Need to expand access to and use of collections data in education • Train a new generation of taxonomists, curators, and other collections professionals • Broaden participation to include underrepresented groups collectionsweb.org

  10. COMMUNITY BUILDING • Goal of the Research Coordination Network is to build a stronger and more effective natural history collections community • A stronger community will facilitate research by providing better lines of communication among collections managers and researchers • Will lead to improved mechanisms for accessing specimens and specimen data • New avenues for research collectionsweb.org

  11. Henry L. Bart Tulane University hank@museum.tulane.edu RCN INITIAL STEERING COMMITTEE Alan Prather Michigan State University alan@msu.edu James Woolley Texas A & M UniversityJamesWoolley@tamu.edu Meredith Blackwell Louisiana State Universitymblackwell@lsu.edu • Additional scientists will be added to both the Steering Committee and the Core Participants collectionsweb.org

  12. PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS • Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections • Natural Science Collections Alliance • American Institute of Biological Sciences collectionsweb.org

  13. THE ROLE OF NSCA • Appoint a person to the core participants in the first year of the Research Coordination Network • Organize a workshop on Databasing Initiatives and Programs • Hosting a symposium at a Natural Science Collections Alliance annual meeting • Assisting in design and implementation of the catalogue of collections and survey of the status of collections collectionsweb.org

  14. PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS • Additional Core Participants to be appointed by: • Taxon-based societies • Museum-related societies • Evolution and Systematics societies collectionsweb.org

  15. RCN OBJECTIVES • Identify the institutions and people that define natural history collections community and facilitate dialogue about how best to serve needs of natural history collections and researchers • Identify major challenges and opportunities in the current environment and foreseeable future and develop a strategic plan for the future of collections research • Determine how to strengthen and modernize the role of collections in education and outreach • Identify the primary needs of collections regarding care, curation, storage and accessibility collectionsweb.org

  16. RCN ACTIVITIES • Workshops, symposia, internships, website • CollectionsWeb, a forum for interaction, access to workshop reports, information on ways to become involved in the Research Coordination Network, links to resources for natural history collections • Natural history collections community resources: catalogue of collections; collections status survey; register of curatorial expertise; inventory of innovative educational programs collectionsweb.org

  17. COLLECTIONSWEB: THE RCN WEBSITE • Catalogue of Collections (database) • Survey of the Status of Collections • Register of Curatorial Expertise • Inventory of Innovative Educational Programs • Workshop schedule; reports • Web resources relevant to natural history collections collectionsweb.org

  18. OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF SMALL COLLECTIONS WORKSHOP • Strategies for small collections to strengthen their role in research and education • Databasing and imaging in small collections • Fostering student research in small collections collectionsweb.org

  19. COLLECTIONS AND DATABASE INTITIATIVES WORKSHOP • Partnership with Natural Science Collections Alliance • Strategies for strengthening coordination among Natural History Collections and Database Initiatives and Programs • Develop a conduit for communication between the tools and the people who use them • Enhancing Participation in GBIF collectionsweb.org

  20. NEW RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES WORKSHOP • Natural history collections and databases taxonomically delimited; limited integration • What new research opportunities emerge from integrating data across different taxonomic collections? • Symbionts, parasites and hosts, plants and herbivores, environmentally or geographically defined communities (e.g., aquatic organisms, desert biota) collectionsweb.org

  21. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH WORKSHOP • New strategies for integrating collections into education and outreach • New technology for displaying/studying specimens • Participants will include educators and administrators from K-12 schools, higher education, as well as natural history collections community collectionsweb.org

  22. RESEARCH PRIORITIES WORKSHOP • Increased investment in systematics (PEET, BSI, PBI, AToL) must be accompanied by increased funding for NHC • Advances in IT make it possible for natural history collections to play an expanded role in systematics and other national research priorities (NEON) • Workshop will explore ways of increasing role of natural history collections in systematic and other nationally important research collectionsweb.org

  23. STAKEHOLDERS WORKSHOP • Partnership with AIBS • Representatives of national and international organizations that serve as clientele (GBIF, NBII, ITIS, NEON, LTER, USDA, FWS, NIH, NIJ, Homeland Security, and DOD) • Goal is to educate natural history collections about activities, needs of the organizations and engage organizationsdirectly into activities of the RCN collectionsweb.org

  24. SYMPOSIA • Best practices symposium at SPNHC meeting • Symposium on strengthening connections among database initiatives and collections at NSCA meeting • Additional symposia/workshops at professional society meetings to discuss outcomes collectionsweb.org

  25. STUDENT INTERNSHIPS • Student research internships on best practices, funded by RCN, managed by SPNHC • Student research internships on novel approaches to specimen-based research, managed by the Steering Committee collectionsweb.org

  26. BROADER IMPACTS • Concerted effort to include diversity of participants in RCN activities and broaden participation in natural history collections generally • Recruit participants for workshops, internships, symposia from minority serving institutions with natural history collections • Education/Outreach workshop will recruit teachers from inner city schools, Indian reservations collectionsweb.org

  27. DISCUSSION TOPICS • What else would you like to see done? • How can you participate? • How can the role of NSCA be enhanced? collectionsweb.org

  28. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS • Funding for the RCN is generously provided by the US NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION(NSF-0639214 to Michigan State University) • Disclaimer:This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0639214. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. collectionsweb.org