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BioScience: Natural History's Place in Science and Society

The place of natural history in science and in society has shifted considerably over the last 100 years. The communities that care about natural history today have an opportunity to help shape its future, but the path forward is unclear. How these communities define, integrate, and communicate the value and the practice of natural history will depend, in part, on their ability to come together and share their own successes, failures, and bright ideas.

In an effort to continue the conversations on the future of natural history, and to take the conversation beyond the ideas we offered in our article Natural History’s Place in Science and Society, now published with Advance Access in BioScience, we have established this online forum to broaden the discussion and bring in new ideas. In our article we highlight the connections between natural history and human health, food security, conservation, and natural resource management; we document the decline in some aspects of natural history; and we suggest ways in which the practice of natural history can be revitalized. These views came from a series of workshops that involved a wide range of participants.The views were polished by the keen comments of a number of reviewers, but they still represent only a small fraction of what needs to be said, particularly about the path forward. It is one thing to lay out the broad outlines of a 21st century vision for natural history, quite another to make it happen.

Here, we invite anyone passionate about the future of natural history to contribute to the discussion. We are interested in hearing from you about institutional successes (museums, academia, agencies, and NGOs), paths forward, and ideas for reform. We are also interested in connecting projects, initiatives, and organizations.

Our hope is that this forum become a starting point for the next set of collaborations, initiatives, and actions, and that ideas here can spread to inform, energize, and integrate different audiences passionate about the future of natural history. We will start with a basic open-ended thread, "Natural History in the 21st Century", as well as threads on:

If we see enough interest, we can start additional threads.

JOSHUA J. TEWKSBURY, JOHN G. T. ANDERSON, JONATHAN D. BAKKER, TIMOTHY J. BILLO, PETER W. DUNWIDDIE, MARTHA J. GROOM, STEPHANIE E. HAMPTON, STEVEN G. HERMAN, DOUGLAS J. LEVEY, NOELLE J. MACHNICKI, CARLOS MARTINEZ DEL RIO, MARY E. POWER, KIRSTEN ROWELL, ANNE K. SALOMON, LIAM STACEY, STEPHEN C. TROMBULAK, AND TERRY A. WHEELER