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-Centre for Arctic Knowledge and Exploration, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Poster presented at: Arctic Science Summit Week and Arctic Observing Summit, March 2016, Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.A. Available from: http://www.arcticobservingsummit.org/aos-2016-poster-abstracts-public (accessed 4 May 2016).
ABSTRACT: Changes in the diversity, distribution and ecology of species in the Arctic are predicted and/or already being documented in response to global change. Baseline biodiversity data from the past and present can provide critical points of reference in time and space for measuring change. Core components of biodiversity data are specimens in natural history collections. Natural history specimens are data themselves, documenting the distribution of species in time and space; they serve as vouchers for datasets, allowing future workers to go back to original material to confirm or revise identifications; and they are also sources of new data (morphology, anatomy, toxicology, genetic information, etc.). Biological specimens from the Arctic are a diverse, valuable and irreplaceable component of the polar information spectrum, yet Arctic specimens were collected more frequently in the past than they are today. Core functions of museums are the collection, long-term preservation, stewardship and curation of specimens, and facilitating access to these specimens, both physically and digitally. The Canadian Museum of Nature, founding member of the international Arctic Natural History Museums Alliance, houses the largest – and continually growing – collection of natural history specimens from the Canadian Arctic, with ca. 260K Arctic specimens (including >550 type specimens). Arctic Observing programs on biodiversity should document field observations with specimens whenever possible, and should engage with natural history museums to ensure these specimens are properly preserved and accessible to future generations of researchers. Reciprocally, natural history museums should be more involved in Arctic science discussions to raise awareness and increase usage of their rich collections-based resources, and should engage with researchers who require a permanent repository for their Arctic field collections.