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AIBS Public Policy Report for August 30, 2004


Unfortunately, budget constraints and election-year politics have pushed Congress to cut funding for scientific research in almost every federal agency; NSF alone has seen its research budget slashed by $200 million. The scientific community must make it known to members of Congress that research funding is not an appropriate "offset" when funding gets tight. We also continue to battle the misperception that biology is only medical research.

Because of the enormous challenges we face in getting our message heard, AIBS is hosting a second congressional visits day this year. Through the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC), AIBS is co-hosting a two-day event with the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM) on September 28-29.

The format of the event will be similar to previous years. We will kick off the event with a briefing by federal and legislative officials on the afternoon of the 28th, followed by a reception in the House of Representatives. CoFARM is organizing a reception on the Hill for participants and key congressional staff that evening, highlighted by an award ceremony for a member of Congress who has demonstrated a commitment to our fields. The morning of September 29th, participants will receive tips on conducting congressional visits at a breakfast reception on the Hill. The remainder of the day will be dedicated to small group visits to members of Congress.

Our goal is to have 5-10 biologists attend the event on behalf of AIBS and its member societies. There are no registration fees for the event; however participants are responsible for covering their travel costs for the event. For further information, please contact Adrienne Sponberg () or Robert Gropp ().


On 24 August 2004, the American Society of Plant Taxonomists adopted the following statement expressing the continued importance of natural history collection facilities to modern biological research. The complete ASPT statement: The American Society of Plant Taxonomists affirms the crucial role of natural history collections, and of plant collections in particular, in research, teaching, and public outreach. Collections of plant specimens (herbaria) are the foundation for all studies of plant diversity and evolution. Specimens provide enormous economic and scientific returns to society and are irreplaceable resources that must be preserved for future generations.

Specimens provide the foundation of nomenclature, the basis for identification, the common reference for communication, and the vouchers for floras, as well as for evolutionary and genomic studies. Molecular and morphological characters that allow us to reconstruct the history of life can be obtained from herbarium specimens. All fields of biological science from the level of molecular biology to ecosystem science are dependent on collections, not just for application of names, but as the basis for referencing all aspects of biodiversity.

Beyond their scientific importance, herbarium collections offer many benefits to society by providing data or reference materials for critical endeavors such as agriculture, human health, biosecurity, forensics, control of invasive species, conservation biology, natural resources, and land management. Herbarium collections provide a wealth of information on our natural heritage and extend back hundreds of years; thus they provide the only reliable, verifiable record of the changes to our flora during the expansion of human population.

Because natural history collections play such an important role in societal endeavors, continued physical and financial support is absolutely critical. Collections are most valuable in their original institutional and geographical context. Because they are historical records linked to a time and place, lost collections cannot be replaced. Moreover, many populations documented in herbaria no longer exist and others are now protected. Furthermore, some specimens cannot be replaced due to the imposition of constraints on collecting. Therefore, ASPT strongly advises institutions to maintain their collections in perpetuity. Once an institution divests itself of a collection the institution can never regain the benefits associated with the collection.

It is imperative that minimum standards regarding environmental conditions and pest control be met so that specimens can be maintained indefinitely into the future. As a body of considerable expertise with regard to all aspects of herbarium curation, research, education, and outreach, the membership of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists hereby offers its expertise to help institutions develop management plans for maintaining collections and to integrate herbarium collections more effectively into research, education, and outreach activities.


Environmental biologists that regularly utilize United States Geological Survey (USGS) geospatial data and tools will be interested to know that USGS director Chip Groat has announced a plan to reorganize USGS geospatial data programs. According to Groat, the new agency structure will strengthen geographic research at the USGS by consolidating existing geospatial data programs in a new National Geospatial Programs Office. As part of the reorganization, The National Map program will now be located in the Geospatial Information Office. Agency officials contend that the new structure will allow the Survey's existing expertise in geography to focus attention on geographic research and will enhance USGS leadership in both geospatial data programs and geographic research.

The reorganization will consolidate USGS geospatial programs under the new National Geospatial Programs Office located within the Geospatial Information Office (GIO). The National Geospatial Programs Office will oversee the portfolio of national geospatial programs for which the USGS has responsibility, including the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the Geospatial One Stop project, the Department of the Interior Enterprise Geospatial Information Management activity and The National Map.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program offers graduate fellowships for master's and doctoral level students in environmentally related fields of study. EPA has announced that the next deadline for receipt of pre-applications is 23 November 2004. Subject to the availability of funding, the Agency plans to award approximately 100 new fellowships by 21 July 2005. The fellowship program provides up to $37,000 per year of support. For more information, visit Additionally, EPA plans to award 20 fellowships to master's or doctoral students in environmentally-related fields through its Greater Research Opportunities program. The pre-application deadline for the GRO fellowships is also 23 November 2004. For additional information visit Finally, EPA's GRO program also plans to award 15 new undergraduate research fellowships for bachelor level students in environmentally-related fields of study. Undergraduate fellowships allow provide students support for their junior and senior years as well as for a summer internship at an EPA facility. The undergraduate fellowships provide up to $17,000 per year in support and up to $7,500 to support the summer intern experience. For additional information, please visit


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