DELTA maybe one last time.

Ingolf Askevold IASKEVOL at VM.CC.FAMU.EDU
Tue Mar 15 11:31:14 CST 1994

      Previously, I posed the question about why there seem to be so
few entomologists using DELTA.  Below, I tabulate the responses I
got that pertain to this question, followed by snippets of the more
detailed opinions that I also got.  By far the vast majority of
respondants for reprint requests, or just offering an opinion, were
indeed botanists, by the way!  I'd like to thank everyone for their
many responses, which I found enlightening and entertaining.
Hopefully everyone else can get something out of these, too.  The
snippets below are essentially verbatim, though I may have
corrected some spelling and added comments [as comments].

1.    "What is it?"
2.    "Entomologists just aren't active on the networks [or not
      hooked up yet?]"
3.    "Unless someone's already using it no-one will [a colleague in
      the same Department, that is]"
4.    "They're just not talking about it"
5.    "Entomologists are rebellious"
6.    "Snow-ball effect [more botanical data sets available, so
      interest grows more quickly, whereas there's almost nothing
      for insects yet]"
7.    "Most entomologists outside Australia haven't had exposure


The following bytes are extracted from letters received:

      A lot of botanists are talking about DELTA, but only three,
that I know of, are publishing actively using DELTA output...
There is a lot of talk, but almost nothing to show for it!  ... we
can not explain why people express interest, attend a workshop, and
then do nothing publishable with DELTA.
      Finally for me the bigger question is not just DELTA use but
computer use in general.  Most of the in-the-trenches taxonomists
who produce the basic taxonomic products that hold the biological
world together, use computers as `giant' typewriters.  They do
their manuscripts on computers just about the same way they used to
on their typewriters; they are not taking advantage of the
tremendous power of the microcomputer, much if at all.  Also, they
do not participate in the Internet much.  There are a few of us who
are using microcomputers to their fullest, but we are a VERY small
      Molecular taxonomists on the other hand, do everything on the
MAC or PC and are burning up the wires, but not in TAXACOM rather
in with the molecular biologists.  I keep hoping that when my son's
generation makes it to our level, perhaps this will all change.


      I don't know about those entomologists -- back in the
seventies, when "computers" and "museums" were starting to be
included in the same sentence,  the entomologists seemed to be the
most reluctant to see the advantages of computer catalogues.  (I
saw their point -- trying to catalog X-million specimens on a 512K
computer WAS a bit ridiculous!)
      But today,  entomologists should be seeing the advantages!! --
just HAVING "Entomo-l" is a major breakthrough!  (and the
outpouring that goes on on it shows how badly entomologists need
this resource!)
      As an "eighty-percent" entomologist,  (twenty-percent, rest of
the animal kingdom)  I started salivating over the idea that DELTA
might help generate taxonomic keys to aid my students.  Since
entomology revolves around such keys (and many are pretty bad!!),
I support your crusade to wake up the entomologists!!!

                 [gosh, does it appear I'm crusading?]


      About your question on TAXACOM - I am curious why vertebrate
zoologists and other invert. people besides entomologists don't use
DELTA [well, I got a response from an onychophorologist, and at
least 1 acarologist and 1 spiderman]?  I think just ignorance - and
lack of penetration in these areas.  I am a morphometrician and was
turned off by DELTA at first - cause I thought keys etc. were for
beginners, but have learned otherwise.  I think some missionaries
to places like the AMNH, CMNH, LACMNH - I hate acronyms but listing
major natural history museums should give a talk on DELTA to spread
the word.  These are centers of education in this area.


      Hi. I'm an entomologist ...  Not sure I'm ready to use it, as
I'm a dedicated Mac user and most of the programs I've seen are for
PCs.  This is the case for most of the ent folks at MSU.  With
respect to the why not entomologists, I think many of us older folk
have seen so much rancorous drivel as to not know who to believe.
You must admit that the ones who invent new methods are often quick
to condemn those who don't adopt them.  Perhaps entomologists are
simply a rebellious lot!  (Of course, you may well ask, how
rebellious is it to use such ancient techniques).  Anyway - I'd
like to see what's involved.


      With regard to your question on entomologists and DELTA (and
in a parallel way, as I understand, botanists and DELTA), I have a
little knowledge on both fields of research (I was trained at the
University as a botanist, then I recycled myself as an
entomologsit) and I think I have some clues to the problem. Let's
see if I can explain myself in English fluently:

I believe that the use of DELTA for entomologists is DIFFICULT,
      a) there are too many characters to check (botanical
      descriptions use less characters, at least involving
      identification routine procedures);
      b) the states of each character are very numerous and have no
      specific, easy to learn nomenclature (nomenclatura of plant
      body portions and character states are well documented: v.g.
      the terms 'ovoid', 'linear', 'lanceolate' for leaf shape are
      unmistakeable, and botanist use many countable characters: nr.
      of stamina, nr. of petals, etc.).


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