This Technical Committee was formed in recognition of the vital role that museums and collections play in identifying, cataloging, vouchering and documenting biological diversity, for their importance as resources to researchers, and for their function in public information and education.
Despite these vital functions, museums and collections
are constantly under threat from limitations of personnel, facilities
and funding. The Technical Committee has these aims:
1. Determine the significant biological specimen collections in PA, the institutions and support staff that maintain them, thereby emphasizing and the major taxa they contain.
2. Seek representation from the larger of these collections, as well as representation of major groups of organisms, to form the body of the technical committee. The Committee should contain a representative of the 4-5 larger institutional collections and with minimal redundancy also represent persons directly involved with collections of plants, mammals, invertebrates, fungi, etc.
3. Produce a web-accessible inventory of the leading collections in PA, their supervisory staff and existing policies, a summary of their PA holdings in terms of specimens and taxa, and a consensus statement on the value and acceptable uses for such resources (systematics, specimen-based documentation, historical data storage, vouchering, etc.). As a brief supplement, this inventory will include non-PA collections with significant holdings of PA organisms.
4. Develop a list of urgent issues facing collections in PA, suitable for communication to PABS Steering Committee, with intent for circulation by PABS officers to all appropriate institutions, foundations, and agencies in order to increase awareness of both services and needs of collection-based resources for sustaining biodiversity in the state, now and in the future. Urgent issues include, but are not limited to, the following:
A. Develop guidelines and specific recommendations for use of collection resources for documenting research and biotic inventory of PA organisms, including explicit statement of costs intended for inclusion in project grant or contract proposals at all levels.
B. Discuss data-related issues confronting biological collections, including data dissemination, data sharing, data security, information ownership, data accountability, among others.
C. Identify urgent and immediate needs confronting specimen-based documentation in PA, including threats to collection integrity, potentially orphaned collections, locating and disposing of collections already orphaned, diversification of collection holdings including molecular samples, and identifying future needs and threats related to maintaining active and viable collections with adequate geographical and taxonomic coverage in PA.
The area of Systematics presents some particular challenges; taxonomic expertise is scarce and dwindling commodity. This Technical Committee aims to highlight some of these challenges, specifically ones related to tracking PA-related expertise, research, and education in systematic biology, and in developing collection-based recommendations for compiling an authoritative list of PA life forms that would begin to resolve questions such as those raised in the recent Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership Snapshot volume. The actual research and compiling are for others to do, as PABS is an advisory body, but the Committee aims to take a stance on such issues.