Natural history collections have stimulated insights into systematics and evolution, but the extensive biodiversity sampling held in museums is increasingly employed to address other critical societal concerns, especially those related to changing environmental conditions on our planet. Due to large-scale digitization efforts in the last decade, specimen information can now be collated across natural history museums. Here, we leverage the availability of digital records of specimens in the United States that span the past ∼135 years to explore the vitality of this resource. Using mammals as an example, we document a significant decline in recent specimen acquisition at a time of extreme environmental degradation and loss of mammalian populations. To stimulate rigorous assessments of the impacts of changing conditions and future-proof this basic infrastructure for mammalogy, we recommend a renewed effort to build temporally deep, geographically extensive, and site-intensive collections of holistic specimens. Targeted fieldwork should be designed to leverage historic sampling to enable retrospective environmental analyses and derive more complete perspectives of change.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 99 • No. 4