Friday, January 30, 2015

In the News: The Bones of Snake and Man

Ancient human jawbone surfaces off coast of Taiwan
Fig.1. This jawbone was pulled out of the water 25 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan and offers a view into human evolution (Credit: Yousuke Kaifu

This week, ancient history takes center stage, from the persistence of long past events in indigenous traditions to new research in the evolution of snakes. Read these stories and more for this week's #FollowFriday!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Smart Collecting: A New Collecting Culture

Fig.1. Antique Cabinet Museum in Pennsylvania holds many natural history curiosities (Credit: Michelle J. Enemark, 2011).

Editor's Note

This article first appeared as a post written by Adele Crane for Cracking the Collections, a blog run by the Emerging Professionals Group in the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). This group aims to connect young professionals interested working with natural history collections to their peers and mentors.

Adele is the program assistant for Scientific Collections International (SciColl), which is housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She manages the SciColl blog and other day-to-day program operations.

During the 1993 outbreak of a novel hantavirus in the Four Corners region of the United States, an effort to locate the pathogen's origin included investigating both human and animal samples in medical and natural history collections. A 1978 frozen tissue sample linked the outbreak pathogen to its natural reservoir in the deer mouse. Scientists were able to predict future outbreaks based on die-offs of local deer mouse populations. This piece of tissue from decades ago was never collected to provide the missing link between species, nor was it meant to be the basis for predicting an outbreak. However, this does show that without holistic and thorough sampling, collections cannot be used to their fullest potential.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In the News: Surviving a Volcano

Fig.1. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was extraordinarily destructive, yet some writings may have survived (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted in one of the more infamous disasters in European history. Charred scrolls buried beneath more than 50 feet of ash may finally be readable with the help of special x-ray technology. This story and more for this week's #FollowFriday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Predicting Parasites

Fig.1. Estuarine clam Potamocorbula amurensis with oval-shaped pits induced by trematode worms (Credit: John Warren Huntley, 2015)

Last week, former President Jimmy Carter announced that the end was in sight for eradicating the waterborne Guinea worm disease. This parasitic affliction could be the second disease in human history to be eradicated. Unfortunately, just as the Guinea worm is declining, other parasitic diseases are on the rise. One researcher examined fossils from thousands of years ago to understand how parasites might change in the 21st century.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In the News: Forgotten Samples Yield Surprising Secrets

Fig.1. The Nagasaki bomb blast in 1945 came from about 6.2 kilograms of enriched plutonium. A sliver of this same element remains from the Manhattan Project and now sits in a secure vault in Berkeley, CA (Credit: Library of Congress).

The reappearance of a plutonium sliver from the Manhattan Projects creates questions about how this sample could be part of an exhibit. As scientists in California determine where to put the tiny fragment of plutonium, researchers just to the north are salvaging what they can from tsunami debris. These stories and more for this week's #followfriday.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Origin of Maize

Fig.1. Maize, known as corn in the United States, comes in many varieties. This colorful array started out as a teosinte plant in Mexico about 10,000 years ago (Creative Commons: Miguel Vieira, 2011)

Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the most important cereal crops in the world. It originated from the wild grass teosinte, endemic to Mexico and Central America. The evolution from small, hard seeds to a full ear of corn has captivated scientists. Unlike other grains, which evolved slowly, maize appeared rather suddenly in the archaeological record around 10,000 years ago. Although the teosinte ancestor has been accepted, the path from a warmer and wetter Mexico into the arid U.S. Southwest remained controversial. A recent study, however, found how maize traveled and adapted so quickly to a vastly different environment.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Our Inaugural Year Annual Report!

2014 was a successful first year for SciColl: we held our first international workshop, expanded our digital presence and are continuing to work on our registry of collections, GRSciColl.

See our Inaugural Year Annual Report for full highlights.

We look forward to a great 2015!