IMLS-funded Cataloguing Project Enables National Shell Museum to Improve Intellectual Control over Its Collection

Read the full story from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

In early May 2016, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum reached the milestone of 100,000 catalogued lots in its mollusk (mostly “dry shells”) collection. This high-priority, IMLS-funded cataloguing project, which includes web dissemination of a searchable version of the catalogue, has been funded by two “Museums for America” grants, both in the Collections Stewardship category.

Natural history collections are “libraries” of the natural world and, as such, are vital to our understanding of nature and our planet. A big chunk of current scientific research on animals and plants relies on natural history collections. Among many other purposes, collections provide baseline data for animal and plant inventories and geographical surveys; the resulting knowledge about distributions of animal and plant species is instrumental in conservation studies and research on threats and extinctions caused by environmental changes.

IMLS funding has allowed the National Shell Museum to hire part-time data-entry staff to expand our collection catalogue, with assistance from collection volunteers. This ensures that the specialized natural history collection we hold in public trust is completely documented and that we have full intellectual control over the material and associated metadata. The National Shell Museum opened in November 1995; by the time it received its accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in March 2010, we had catalogued only 27,000 lots (out of an estimated 130,000). On that occasion, one of the “Areas of Improvement by Next Review” recommended by AAM’s Accreditation Commission was that the Museum should take action to “… further improve the documentation of collections.”

National Park Maps

This site currently has 1,053 free high-resolution national park maps to view, save, and download. It includes lists by state and park name.

Senate sends chemical overhaul to Obama

Read the full story in The Hill.

The Senate on Tuesday approved a bipartisan overhaul of the country’s standards for chemical safety, sending the bill to President Obama for his signature.

The passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act came by voice vote, two weeks after the House passed the bill and a decade after lawmakers first started working on the measure.

The legislation gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sweeping new power over tens of thousands of chemicals, with new ability to order testing and regulate the substances.

It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with.

It overhauls the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which lawmakers and advocates across the political spectrum have criticized as leaving the EPA toothless in recent years. It’s the first major environmental bill to pass Congress since 1990.

What I Learned Installing Solar Panels

Read the full story at CityLab.

Over the past year, I’ve written about barriers to accessing solar power, states thwarting solar growth, and the boom in solar jobs, but I’d never witnessed the physical labor needed to start drawing energy from the sun.

To remedy this, I tagged along with a nonprofit that was installing solar on the roof of a house near Benning Road in Southeast Washington, D.C. this May. I came as both observer and participant. This proved a lot more exciting than sitting at a desk all day, but the most surprising thing was just how uncomplicated the process is.

The state of the sustainability profession, 2016

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

We recently launched our fourth State of the Profession report, which we’ll be discussing during a webcast today with sustainability recruiter Ellen Weinreb.

We cover a lot of topics in the report ranging from the impact of CEO involvement, where the sustainability organization reports in a company, where budgets are increasing and — these are the pages everyone turns to first — what compensation looks like for a sustainability professional. (Register for the webcast and download the full report here.)

What we don’t cover, however, is why we conduct the research.

Student research project taps into bottled water consumption on campus

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

At Michigan State University, plastic water bottles account for a large amount of campus waste, yet it is estimated that only 25 percent of the nearly three million water bottles on campus make their way to MSU’s Recycling Center each year. To better understand water consumption and uncover areas for improvement, graduate students Cheng-Hua Liu, Melissa Rojas-Downing and Zhenci Xu partnered with MSU Sustainability to conduct a research survey that measured water usage and preference of the MSU community.

Industrial research: Drug companies must adopt green chemistry

Read the full story in Nature.

John L. Tucker and Margaret M. Faul describe how they transformed their company to save time and money by making drugs sustainably.

The Bricks In This House Are All Made From Industrial Waste

Read the full story in Fast Company.

StoneCycling recycles the garbage from local factories—and eliminates the emissions of traditional brickmaking.

Precious Metals: A Resource Worth Recycling

Read the full story at Investor Intel.

Mining of precious metals has increased dramatically in the past few decades to meet demand resulting, often, in severe environmental damage and human health consequences as well as depletion of valuable mineral resources. Metals differ from other resources in that they remain with us forever in some form. Recycling metals following their use provides an important means to reduce the environmental burden resulting from mining primary ore, ensures the availability of a valuable secondary source of the metal, and conserves an irreplaceable resource that otherwise would be discarded. Challenges and benefits associated with recycling precious metals are presented here. Emphasis is placed on the need for greater use of green chemistry recycling processes for effective recovery of these precious resources to prevent their extensive loss to the commons. Molecular Recognition Technology (MRT) is presented as an effective green chemistry process in commercial metal recycling together with selected examples of its use.

A Student-Run Farm Cultivates Passion For Sustainable Agriculture

Read the full story at NPR.

A weathered wooden shed that holds wheelbarrows, hoes and other basic tools is the beacon of the Student Organic Farm, a two-acre swath within the larger horticultural research farm at Iowa State University.

On a warm spring evening, a half-dozen students gather here, put on work gloves and begin pulling up weeds from the perennial beds where chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sage are in various stages of growth.

“I didn’t know how passionate I [would] become for physical work,” says culinary science major Heidi Engelhardt.

So passionate, she’s now the outreach coordinator for the farm. Within her major, she says, “people want to work in kitchens and they want to work in big cities. And that is important, but it’s also important to have that farming aspect. And I think I’m very lucky to have discovered that.”