Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Origin(s) of Outbreaks

Fig.1. Color print of Aedes aegypti mosquito
Credit: Emil August Goeldi, 1905

On Monday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared a yellow fever epidemic in three provinces, including the heavily populated capital of Kinshasa. The current outbreak has killed more than 300 people in Angola and depleted the world’s vaccine stockpile to protect people in Angola, DRC, and Uganda. Although the outbreak is largely confined to central Africa, scientists worry about its potential spread to Asia, where 2 billion people live in areas infested with the disease’s vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Public health officials do not yet know which factors led to this event becoming the deadliest yellow fever outbreak since 1971. Whether the virus became more virulent or it came in contact with new populations, the question of why now sits at the heart of every outbreak. To answer this question, scientists are teasing apart the genetic and environmental factors that make a disease tick. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

SPNHC/GGBN 2016, in Berlin, Germany

SciColl is excited to be attending the 2016 meetings of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN). We’re in Berlin, Germany for the week attending sessions and visiting one of our partner organizations, the Museum für Naturkunde.

  • David Schindel, SciColl’s Executive Board Chair, will present a keynote address at GGBN, Thematic, Demand-driven Sampling of the Tree of Life: Barcode of Wildlife Project, on Wednesday at 9:00.

  • Eileen Graham, SciColl’s Program Manager, will moderate a GGBN Plenary session, We Can’t Save Them All: Assessing ex situ Conservation Across Time, Technology and the Uncertainty of the Future, on Thursday starting at 13:30.

  • David will present Scientific Collections and Food Security: Their Role in Predicting and Protecting Our Future Food Supply at SPNHC on Thursday at 16:40.

  • Eileen will give a live demonstration of GRSciColl in the SPNHC DemoCamp session on Friday at 10:20.

  • Eileen will present A Global Registry of Scientific Collections: Striking a Balance Between Disciplinary Detail and Interdisciplinary Discoverability at GGBN on Friday at 11:45.

We look forward to seeing many of our colleagues in Berlin and sharing the highlights on Twitter and back here on the blog.

Bis bald!

Friday, June 17, 2016

In the News: Creating Art and Spreading Hope

Fig.1. Humpback whale breaching in Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary (
Credit: Whit Welles/2008)

Amidst fears for the planet’s future, these artists and marine biologists have a clear message of hope. From an active campaign to spread the word, to art that engages children and researchers, we can celebrate the biodiversity and beauty of our oceans. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mercury in a Time of War

Fig.1. British sailors towing warships toward the besieged city of Canton
in 1841 during the 
First Opium War (Credit: Edward Hodges Cree)

Since industrialization, mercury levels in our oceans have tripled. This toxic heavy metal is one of many pollutants that can be seen in environmental records as a testament to human activities in the past. A recent article published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found a new type of environmental record that measures mercury levels in the seawater through time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In the News: NSF Funding Back on Track

Fig.1. Research on migration, disease, and agriculture depend on a sound collections infrastructure
 (Credit left to right: Joi Ito/2008 pic. cropped, Paul Fürst/1656, Marie Hale/2010)

A critically important source of funding for collections in the United States has been reinstated. Though the program is still under evaluation, this money will go towards the preservation of specimens and infrastructure. This week in the news, we read about this program, as well as research projects underway around the world that depend on collections to further understand human disease, migration, and agriculture.