Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Sad to say, there's news of another proposed museum cut, in this case the ornithology program at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, which is part of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Here's the email from the ornithology curator, John Klicka. Note particularly paragraph 2; admittedly it's not a direct quote from UNLV's VP for Research, but the statement about museum work being "antiquated and no longer relevant in the modern world," if true, is quite extraordinary. Even a cursory glance at this group's publication list shows that they are using a mixture of molecular and morphological techniques to address real issues in conservation, wildlife management, and environmental change; the journals that they are publishing in are indicative of its quality. As a former university administrator, I normally heave a deep sigh when I hear my colleagues go off on the iniquities of their administrations, but even I'd have to admit that this one takes the biscuit.


EMAIL FROM: John Klicka klicka@unlv.nevada.edu

Dear Colleagues:

As many of you have likely heard, due to a prolonged economic downturn in Nevada the Curator of Birds position at the Marjorie Barrick Museum will likely lose its state funding after July 2011. This decision was ultimately made by the University's Vice President for Research (a long-term administrator, formerly a chair in the Sociology Department). The Director of my academic unit (Dr. Oliver Hemmers [Oliver.hemmers@unlv.edu], an expert in X-ray atomic and molecular spectroscopy) has suggested that it might be helpful if I solicited some opinions from outside sources that would argue in support of the continued operation of the Ornithology program at the Barrick Museum.

The immediate problems appear to be two-fold. First, Oliver has told me that the VP for Research believes that museum work is antiquated and no longer relevant in the modern world. He needs to be informed that the type of work being done in the Ornithology program is of critical importance in these days of disappearing habitats and climate change. Second, the VP for Research is apparently under the impression that nearly all we do in this program is collect, prepare, and catalogue specimens. Of course, as specimen-based researchers our group does these things, but the program has also been very productive with respect to student training and original research. Since 2006 we have produced 26 peer-reviewed publications and have given 22 presentations at national or international meetings (see web links below). The single state line associated with this program (the Curator position) thus produces a considerable return for the University. Our VP for Research needs to be informed that we do better than average work here, and that despite its small size, the Barrick Museum Ornithology Program and its collections have put UNLV on the map in the Ornithological world at an international level.

If this sounds like a desperate, last-ditch effort to save yet another museum program from disappearing, it is. It is possible that the VP for Research may not change his mind, but I'd like for him to know that some very qualified people recognize the important contributions that this program makes to UNLV and to science and that they (you) do not approve of his decision. If you choose to help, please expand on the themes mentioned above and send your views to Dr. Oliver Hemmers at oliver.hemmers@unlv.edu (and please CC me). Your support is much appreciated.

Regards, --John Klicka

Publications here: http://barrickmuseum.unlv.edu/ornithology/publications.html
Students here: http://barrickmuseum.unlv.edu/ornithology/personnel.html

John Klicka
Curator of Birds
Marjorie Barrick Muse.of Natural History
University of Nevada Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway - Box 454012
Las Vegas, NV 89154-4012

1 comment:

  1. The Museum itself is facing elimination of funding - which will result in closure - not just the Ornithology Program.

    See the Write a Letter Campaign.