The next generation of interdisciplinary researchers needed access to collections across traditional disciplinary boundaries. SciColl promoted a new generation of interdisciplinary research that utilized collections through conferences, workshops and networking activities devoted to our global research challenges.
Infectious human diseases emerge when changes in climate and the distribution of wild habitats, agricultural lands and human-dominated areas bring pathogens, disease vectors and disease reservoir populations into new contact. Scientific collections provide unique opportunities to study these changing distribution patterns as well as the evolution of the pathogens and their hosts. SciColl endeavored to catalyze the growth of a new global network of disease researchers and representatives of collections that contributed to this interdisciplinary research, including microbes, parasites and pathogens; health data; wildlife, livestock and veterinary animals; and more.
How do you describe the environmental changes of the Anthropocene without the context of prior epochs?
Earth’s environment has changed throughout its history and scientific collections provide the lenses through which these changes can be observed. New instruments allow data mining from new and old collections, offering new historical records of phenomena such as biodiversity (using ancient DNA, for example) or paleotemperature (using isotopes). Climatic change has left clues behind discovered in sediment cores, ice cores, fossils and more recent organisms in natural history museums, and the growth-rings of mollusks, corals and trees -- all preserved for study in scientific collections. SciColl brought together researchers and collection specialists who evaluated collections for new sources of evidence.
As the global population continues to grow there is an increasing concern that crop and livestock production and harvesting of wild food sources will not meet society’s needs. Scientific collections from diverse disciplines are needed to research increased food production, mitigate losses due to pests, drought and other stressors, and to find new and sustainable food sources. Research on the role of Rhizobium bacteria in the production of legume crops in nitrogen-deficient regions is one example that involved the use of collections of microbes, plants and their natural pests, soils, sediment cores and others that support the study of local environments.
How do you understand ancient human migration when the ethics of using human DNA are not black and white?
Oceania is a region with important, unresolved questions concerning the history of civilization's spread, yet many samples from the region have become distributed among scientific collections around the world. Collections of human remains, early historical samples of human hair and tissue, pottery artifacts and ancient DNA from human and animal remains found in archaeological sites offer unique insight into the early occupation of Oceania. Access to these collections can be extremely controversial (in the case of human remains) and competitive (in the case of rare and limited quantities of ancient DNA).