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Impressions from the Alameda Grand Opening


Some impressions from yesterday’s Grand Opening of the newly renovated and now fully functional Alameda space for the ASU School of Life Sciences Natural History Collections, Informatics & Outreach Group. The event was attended by more than 200 illustrious guests from ASU and the greater community. A wonderful opportunity to showcase how the collections are now positioned to promote biodiversity research and learning. A set of photos from the event is linked here.

The State Press: ASU Alameda opening puts natural history on display

Arizona State University Natural History Collections – Moving to Alameda (2011-2014) from taxonbytes

There was an official ribbon cutting, and a set of inaugural statements made by Dean Garcia-Pichel, Director Jacobs, and myself.

Thanks to (!): Denise, Jacob, Sandy (SoLS event planning, media, VisLab); Andrea, Andrew, Andrew, Angela, Catherine, Chelsey, David, Guanyang, Kellie, Joseph, Naomi, Ruth, Sal, Sangmi, Soon (insects); Ed (informatics); Kody, Melody (outreach); Betty, Dale (molluscs); Andrew Smith, Charlotte, David Pearson, Rebecca (vertebrates); Aaron, Ami, Brenton, Chris, Danika, Daryl, Don, Frankie, Les, Linh, Liz, Kate, Kelli, John-Phillippe, Lane, Marc, Robert, Tyna, Walt (herbarium); and Chris, Kathleen, Lia (fossil plants). Hopefully I did not forget anyone – but thank you as well if I did.

Alameda Grand Opening – Inaugural Remarks (October 2nd, 2014)

 “Thank you, Dean Garcia & Dr. Jacobs, for your support in both word and action. And thank you all very much for coming this afternoon. Great turnout! I have a couple of thank you’s and some general remarks thereafter, hopefully no more than 6-8 minutes total.

First off, a very big thanks to everyone directly involved in organizing the Grand Opening – from Denise Pittman to the SoLS media team (Sandy and Jacob), to the extended collections group (including Melody Basham, our outreach leader), and other supporting members in SoLS and beyond. I think the results are here for everybody to see. They speak to what we can accomplish, and are something to take pride in.

Second, a thank you also to the SoLS and ASU administrators, and to outside contractors. From the very beginning of this project, some three years ago, we were aiming to inspire and work with you on a vision for this new space, and what it could mean for ASU and the greater community. Many of us remember what was – and what wasn’t – before Alameda. I think a lot of mutual trust has been earned in realizing this new space, and this trust in each other can be used to do more good things.

General remarks. Today the collections are wide open for you to explore, enjoy, be curious about, get inspired, and hopefully consider deeper interactions with in the future. Welcome! Enjoy, talk to us, and come again soon. We’re here to help.

To those of us who are here regularly, indeed the collections have a fairly profound meaning. We are the stewards of a broad and deep representation of regional biodiversity – every specimen meticulously sampled, recorded, curated, digitized, and available physically and virtually for research and learning. What we want to share with you in this regard is just a deep sense of.. beauty. Tens of thousands of different species surrounding us! So much diversity, variation in life forms, habits, and functions. It’s hard not to pause and simply be stunned and admiring of this beautiful diversity. And, not to get too profound, but I think there is a sense of belonging too that the collections can give to us. We share our living space and time in the universe with all of these creatures. We are a little different, but are also connected to them, and belong to each other in a causal, historical sense, and will do so always. Think about that as you peek around later.

 Another point is that the collections are products of human nature, culture, and history. While I am really happy today for the active collections group, I think I am even happier for the ASU biologists who built these collections from scratch many decades ago, and whose life’s work and impact we can appreciate and propagate today. What they accomplished wasn’t exactly quick or easy. Every specimen you will see does not only have a natural history, but a history of human discovery and intellectual accession. So, collections such as these are testimony to profound human curiosity and commitment. As you are peeking around, you will hopefully also get a sense of the humanity that is stored in the cabinets and jars.

A few more practical remarks, sort of special-audience targeted, although any individual could end up in several categories.

1. If you are mainly here just to appreciate the collections for what they are – please do so and come again soon.

2. If you are a researcher – consider us as a valuable resource to advance your research interests. Consider your collaborators’ and your students’ interests. There is a lot of biodiversity knowledge and expertise – including informatics expertise – that we can provide for you. For instance, check out our Symbiota collection portals. Again, we are here to work together.

3. If you are a person offering courses, labs, seminars, or other programs and events – consider our spaces as an attractive, immersed setting to deliver these learning and exchange opportunities. Maybe only once, or maybe regularly. Both are doable and very welcome.

4. If you are connected to diverse audiences that might be interested in our outreach programs – please follow up with us. We have different, innovative programs, and basically don’t say “no”.

5. If you are an administrator, please think of us as an increasingly efficient vehicle that can generate products of value to ASU’s mission and.. bottom line. (Yep, not kidding.) There are very good 21st century research and education reasons for us to exist and to succeed financially. Current external support includes multiple NSF biodiversity science and collection digitization awards, informatics sub-awards; research contracts with the USDA, the New York Botanical Garden, the University of Florida, and with others in progress. And also substantive philantrophic contributions from the Ullman Foundation, hopefully others soon.

We have enjoyed the administration’s support in creating this space, and are now jointly concentrating on generating return on investment. We have some things to show for already, and I’m pretty confident that we will generate more.

6. If you are a potential supporter of the collections – either through your time, specimen donations, or through monetary funds provided (funds at any level, really) – then please build connections with us today or at a convenient time to understand more about what we are doing now, and might do in addition, with your support.

Alright, my time is up. Thank you again for coming to the Grand Opening, and I hope you will have an inspiring afternoon and evening with the specimens and with our group.”


At Alameda entrance, October 3rd, 2014. Photo courtesy of Bertram Ludäscher.

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