Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Year in the Life of "Collections in the News"

Fig.1. SciColl secretariat is housed at the National Museum of Natural History in D.C.
(Credit: 
Don DeBold, 2012

With 158 articles published and more than a year underway, Collections in the News has sought to raise awareness about ongoing research done with scientific collections. This year brought visitors from 95 countries to our blog who read about a disease detective at the National Museum of Natural History, stopped for their Monday morning coffee break each week, and had the chance to learn how microbes and mammoth bones teach us more about our world.

Some blog highlights for 2015 include article series on international efforts that work to protect the planet’s soils and address climate change problems. We also participated in GIF week with Deep Sea News and celebrated Thanksgiving with maize scientists. Read more below about these article series!

Fig.2. Lake Hume in Australia suffers from a lack of rainfall (Credit: Tim Keegan, 2007

Paris Climate Conference - COP21

During the first two weeks of December, delegates from around the world met in Paris to address the current and future threats of climate change. As of December 12th, 186 countries published action plans to reduce greenhouse gases. Back in Washington, D.C., we highlighted other efforts to understand past and future climate in our mini-series on environmental change: 

  • Bones of Coral Reefs: In a frighteningly short period of 50 years, coral reefs around the world may suffer from extensive coral bleaching. Scientists comb through fossil records and examine ongoing bleaching events to understand how environmental change affects these essential ecosystems. 

  • Of Ice and Insects: Insects frozen in sediment cores and rooftop collections from Denmark reveal how rapid fluxes in the climate affect animals and the landscape, from 13,000 years ago to modern times. 

Fig.3. Soil core sample (Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2011

International Year of Soils

This summer, we joined the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s outreach campaign for the International Year of Soils. Although 2015 is almost over, the need to preserve and sustain healthy soil systems must be part of plans addressing food security and environmental change. Our article series included our most read article of 2015 on soil microbes in North Carolina, an interview with a drug discovery expert, a trip up to Alaska, and a new way to look at old soil degradation:

  • Microbes and Middle Schools: Julia Stevens, of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, teaches students how to get their hands dirty and understand how soil microbes affect - and are affected by - their environment. 

  • Drug Discovery in your Backyard: Robert Cichewicz and his group at the University of Oklahoma are hard at work sifting through soil samples to find the next antibiotic. You can get involved in their project here!

  • Beneath the Surface: The frozen tundra of Alaska has microorganisms teeming below the surface, many of which will play an important role in environmental change. 

  • Lessons of Ancient Soils: In addition to showing climate change in ancient times, sediment cores also reveal dangerous and more recent soil degradation spurred on by agriculture.

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