A further partnership is in the planning stages. Mishler and Mohamed are pursuing the establishment of a formal agreement of cooperation between the University and Jepson Herbaria, UC Berkeley, and the Department of Botany and Herbarium at the University of Malaysia, which hopefully will be signed by next January. The agreement will provide for mutual research assistance and student exchange possibilities, which will be a great benefit for both institutions, which sit on opposite sides of the Pacific Rim, an area of major institutional interest for both.
Strong institutional support for systematics is a goal of the PEET program, and UC Berkeley has certainly demonstrated an unusually high level of support as compared to other public universities for the 100+ years of the University Herbarium's existence and continues to do so, in spite of several rounds of budget cuts at the state level in recent years. There are currently six Ph.D.-level research staff in plant systematics supported by hard-money funds in the University and Jepson Herbaria, and a firm commitment (in writing) to continue these lines into the future.
In light of the current state fiscal crisis, it is particularly significant that the University continued the search for a new Director (Mishler), based on a newly created faculty position in plant systematics, carrying with it generous set-up funds for research facilities, at a time when severe budget constraints resulted in a net loss of faculty and staff positions throughout the university through attrition and early retirement incentives. Additional evidence of the University's continued commitment to maintaining the herbaria, as well as other biological museums and a strong program in systematic and evolutionary biology, is the recent $83 million renovation of the Valley Life Sciences Building (VLSB). The resulting increase in space for the herbaria, from approximately 18,200 to 25,900 square feet, is the largest received by any of the biological museums occupying VLSB. The completion of this facility enabled the herbaria to bring all collections together with room for future expansion and significantly improved our offices, laboratories, specimen storage areas, and specimen processing facilities. New facilities elsewhere in VLSB promote our interaction with the Department of Integrative Biology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Museum of Paleontology in a broad program of systematic and evolutionary biology.
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