Southern Patagonia, Chile

New grant to conserve important specimens and records

Casting a wider net to harness the power of collections

Just a quick exciting note. IMLS will fund us over the next two years to integrate three major orphaned fish collections that comprise of over a hundred years of sampling across the Western Atlantic Ocean into our collection. These collections (specimens and paper records), represent an unparalleled time series in some of the most rapidly changing marine environments in the United States. Making these collections and their data accessible to the research community is a tremendous opportunity at an important point in earth history.

These artifacts are of immense scientific value: providing currently missing data on community assembly and abundance, changes in life history as a response to anthropogenic factors, and the distribution and impact of invasive species.

Marine fishes are essential components of their ecosystems that fuel billions of dollars in global annual economic revenue, and continue to inspire transformative insights into vexing engineering and medical problems that face humanity. Over the last century, the persistence of much of this biodiversity has become increasingly threatened, and natural history collections often provide some of the only sources of data for contextualizing modern assessments of what represents risk or loss.

Over the past century coastal development, pollution, and resource exploitation have fundamentally altered marine ecosystems. Specimens and their records in natural history collections offer important historic data from which to contexualize these changes and determine trends. (Image: Minato Mirai in Yokohama)

The global accessibility of these collections by our grant holds the potential to catalyze both transformative research of high conservation and management importance, as well as numerous meaningful education and outreach projects. The goal of this project is to achieve this potential. We will partner with the library sciences program at UNC Chapel Hill to recruit interns and achieve a rather ambitious laundry list of ways to make this project impactful. Stay tuned for updates.

Dialogue & Discussion