Natural History Collections Survey Underway: Please Participate

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is a Partner Organization in the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) grant "Building a Community of Natural History Collections." This initiative (please see for more information) is working to gather valuable data about natural history collections. To this end, an important survey has been developed to gather data about natural history collections that was not captured by recent federal surveys.

Collections curators are encouraged to complete this important survey at

A more thorough explanation of this effort is provided below by Dr. Hank Bart, a Co-PI on the NSF grant.


Dear Colleagues,

At long last, the CollectionsWeb Survey of U.S. Natural History Collections is ready for its official launch (see the survey links farther down in this message).

The survey is an activity of the Community Building in U.S. Natural History Collections Research Coordination Network ( The project was funded by the National Science Foundation in 2006 to address challenges and explore opportunities in U.S. Natural History Collections (NHC). One of the first steps in any community building process is identifying who your community is. When we first proposed this project, we realized that there was no single inventory of U.S. NHC, and that a comprehensive survey of U.S. NHC had not been undertaken for several years.

Within the past two years, surveys of 291 Federal Scientific Collections ( and 611 Federally Funded Scientific Collections ( have been conducted (respectively) by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections and the National Science Foundation. However, by our estimates, these surveys reached less than half of U.S. NHC. Moreover, although the results of these surveys give us valuable insight into challenges currently facing U.S. NHC, they provide only a limited basis for assessing long term trends. This is your opportunity to be counted!

Our goal in building this site is to inventory all U.S. NHC, produce a comprehensive database of U.S. NHC information, and establish a baseline for periodically assessing status and trends. The survey is based on a survey instrument produced by the Association of Systematics Collections (ASC, now the Natural Science Collections Alliance), first conducted in 1988 (baseline data). Our questions and background information are based on the 1995 report of the 1993 ASC survey, entitled Status, Resources and Needs of Systematics Collections by Diane Zorich and K. Elaine Hoagland.

We plan to make all of the data collected at this site a permanent resource for the NHC community by posting the content on the web site of Natural Science Collections Alliance or the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. As a member of the community, you will have access to the data (minus sensitive institutional data), and summaries of the survey results, for use in reports and grant proposals.

We are partnering with the Biodiversity Collections Index (BCI, to produce an index of U.S. NHC. BCI is a community-driven, open-access project initiated by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). It is a global registry of Biodiversity Collections, which aims to provide Globally Unique Identifiers (GUIDs) to every natural history collection on earth. We are also using the data to make a digital map showing the locations of all U.S. NHC.

Here is the link to the survey:

Please bookmark this site so that you can find it later, and add it to the list of trusted sites in your web browser so none of the scripts are blocked (more below).

The survey is directed at collection curators, but some of the questions request financial data that may require administrative input. Thus, we suggest that takers download and print a hardcopy of the survey using the link on the opening page, compile all of the financial data, then return to the website to enter your information online. This can also serve as your hardcopy of the survey.

Prior to taking the survey, you will need to identify yourself and select your collection from the list that appears after choosing the state it resides within. Then, click the text that reads "Start New Survey". If your collection's name does not appear in the list, you will be instructed to click a link that will send you to the Biodiversity Collections Index's (BCI) website, so you can register it. Please register your collection even if it resides within a larger museum or institution that is already registered in BCI. Once you have registered in BCI, return to the survey and choose your newly registered collection from the dropdown list.

We have programmed features that allow you to pause the survey without completing it, skip questions, return to previous questions, change your answers, or navigate among question in the survey. In the event that you pause the survey, you will be assigned a number that you will need to rejoin the survey later (your partially completed survey data will be saved under this number). Write this number down. When you are ready to rejoin the survey, click on the text that reads "click here to resume an existing survey". This will launch a Java script that may be blocked by your web browser. If this happens, click on the information bar at the top of the page and select "Temporarily Allow Scripted Windows" or add the survey site to your trusted sites list in your web browser. Then click again on the text "click here to resume an existing survey" and enter the number to rejoin the survey.

We have tried to anticipate everything that can go wrong when taking the survey, but I'm sure other problems will be detected. So, if you have a problem, please contact Hank Bart (). Please type "CollectionsWeb Survey" in the subject line of your message.

Here is the link again:

This is an extremely important survey and it is extremely important that all U.S. NHC participate. Thus, we will leave the survey up at least until the end of this year. We will be monitoring input and sending out periodic reminders. But please complete your survey right away.

Many thanks in advance for participating.

Hank Bart,
CollectionsWeb RCN Co-PI

Henry L. Bart, Jr.
Director and Curator of Fishes
Tulane University Museum of Natural History
3705 Main Street
Belle Chasse, Louisiana 70037
Voice: 504-394-1711
Fax: 504-394-5045

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