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(WASHINGTON, DC) March 19, 2012 - For most people, the Smithsonian Institution is the name behind the famous museums lining the National Mall. Others know it as the operator of the National Zoo a few miles from the U.S. Capitol, home to the famous pandas.
For Portland State University, however, the Smithsonian Institution is something entirely different - a world class research institution and, as of Monday, an official scientific partner. Officials from both institutions signed an agreement Monday to formalize a research partnership that began in 2004.
"For them to be partnering with us and for them to say we can complement each other is wonderful for them and for us," said Portland State President Wim Wiewel who came to Washington to sign an agreement that binds the two organizations for at least five years.
Portland State's collaboration is with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), one of the institution's nine research centers. The agreement highlights one of the Smithsonian's major - but largely unknown - responsibilities as a serious research institution.
Partnerships with universities are common, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St.Thomas said.
In this case, Portland State will combine with SERC to examine the affect of invasive species on aquatic ecosystems, which is a fancy way of saying rivers like the Columbia, streams, oceans and other water-bodies.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who attended the signing ceremony, said the partnership will display Portland State’s strengths to a larger world.
“The connection for Portland State, it’s another indication of the capacity, the respect for the institution. There’s so much that’s going on there,” he said in an interview afterwards.
“This is significant stuff. The Smithsonian is one of our premier institutions. It’s not just buildings on the Mall. It’s about serious scientific inquiry,” he said.
“This is a great signal for Portland State and our community as well as important stuff dealing with our changing world.”
a tightly connected partner in serious, path-breaking research into aquatic ecosystems and the threats from invasive species.
The five-page contract largely formalizes a well-functioning relationship. The agreement calls on Smithsonian researchers to come to PSU and for researchers from Portland to attach themselves to SERC's base on the Chesapeake Bay.
The agreement notes that "SERC and PSU expertise and capabilities are largely complementary" and that the two organizations "desire to expand collaboration in and beyond invasive species research, teaching, and policy development."
Both sides said the partnership will enhance each party. Portland State, for example, has been focusing primarily on the impact that invasive species have on fresh water while the Smithsonian has been looking at the effects in marine environments.
"The Institute seeks to advance a broad-based understanding of biological invasions by taking advantage of opportunities for comparative research between freshwater and marine systems, and across geographic regions (e.g., eastern and western North America), that result from the combined expertise, activities, and locations of SERC and PSU," the agreement says.
Wiewel said in an interview that since the two organizations have worked together informally since 2004 that there will be almost no transition period required. He also suggested that there might be opportunity for other research agreements with the Smithsonian in the future.
"It's all based on the science and quality of the science," he said, adding that it will also enlarge the university's reputation. Portland State, he said, "will be part of the national and international conversation" on these topics.