Electronic access to collections

Southwestern Field Biologists swfbtucs at INDIRECT.COM
Thu May 19 23:02:58 CDT 1994


On Thu, 19 May 1994, Museum Informatics Project wrote:

>   - - - - The original note follows - - - -
>
> Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 10:37:53 -0400
> From: Mark Camara <camara at horton.Colorado.EDU>
> To: Multiple recipients of list <entomo-l at herman.cs.uoguelph.ca>
> Subject: Electronic access to collections
> X-Comment: Entomology Discussion List
>
> I had dinner, last night, with a collections manager working for the
> federal government, and she made a very interesting criticism of the
> current push to make museum collections accessible via internet.
> Apparently, rabid collectors of rare and endangered species have begun to
> use the internet access to determine locations for profitable collecting,
> and have (at least with a few plant species) wiped out very critical
> populations.  As an academic, it had never even occurred to me that
> making information easily available could lead to this kind of unforseen
> and detrimental consequences.  She suggests that the any locality
> information more precise than county be protected from electronic access
> except by special request.
>
> Any other opinions/experiences/insights on this?
>
>
> --Mark Camara
>   Dept EPO Biology -- CB 334
>   U.Colorado, Boulder 80309
>   camara at horton.colorado.edu
>
Mark,

This kind of paranoia is and will become responsible for the demise of
natural history. The measures we take to support the fear that someone
somewhere will find out where an endangered species is and destroy it,
whether purposefully or inadvertently, is far out of proportion to the
actual risk and the benefits of free access to locality information.

If it were not for consultants like me who are paid to navigate the
absurdly complex web of federal, tribal, and state permitting
requirements, there would be no natural history whatsoever. The
collections would all slowly moulder away in their basements. Just this
year alone I have spent more than $6000 paying my employees to write
reports, contact permit officers, write proposals, and stay on the
telephone, not to mention the permit fees. I paid the California Natural
Diversity Database $200 for a database printout for four USGS map
quadrangles in 1992. In 1994, I paid over $300 for the what turned out to
be the exact same printout for the same maps.

Okay, so that didn't make a lot of sense. Anyway, I am so frustrated that I
no longer collect anything unless I absolutely have to. I used to be a
dedicated field botanist, collecting several hundred specimens a year
many in extremely remote locations. All of my specimens are deposited at
the University of Arizona. But now I have lost interest because the
hassles are not worth it.

Just my opinion.

Frank




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