TAXACOM Digest - 18 May 1994 to 19 May 1994

Arthur Chapman arthur at ERIN.GOV.AU
Wed May 25 12:16:37 CDT 1994

 - - - - The original note follows - - - -

IN>Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 10:37:53 -0400
IN>From: Mark Camara <camara at horton.Colorado.EDU>
IN>To: Multiple recipients of list <entomo-l at>
IN>Subject: Electronic access to collections
IN>X-Comment: Entomology Discussion List

IN>I had dinner, last night, with a collections manager working for the
IN>federal government, and she made a very interesting criticism of the
IN>current push to make museum collections accessible via internet.
IN>Apparently, rabid collectors of rare and endangered species have begun to
IN>use the internet access to determine locations for profitable collecting,
IN>and have (at least with a few plant species) wiped out very critical
IN>populations.  As an academic, it had never even occurred to me that
IN>making information easily available could lead to this kind of unforseen
IN>and detrimental consequences.  She suggests that the any locality
IN>information more precise than county be protected from electronic access
IN>except by special request.

In ERIN, where we have a release of a lot of herbarium/museum information
over the internet, we have given consideration to these issues.  My comments
would be:

1. This information is available anyway in off the shelf books, journals etc.
floras, faunas.
2. Many species are more endangered by the lack of information than the
presence of information on localities
3. At ERIN we restrict the actual locality information and round the lat/long
to half a degree (shortly to be reduced to 10 minutes) for species considered
to be Endangered or Vulnerable (or Rare or Threatened).
4. The Australian Herbaria are looking at developing a list of "Sensitive"
taxa - i.e. those regarded as being in possible danger if their localities were
well known - e.g. Orchids, Insectivorous species, species with high
horticultural potential and restricted distributions, etc. and SOME rare or
threatened species.
5.  I find it an extraordinary suggestion to restrict information to a "country"
- many tourist publications carry information on endangered species, etc. in the
area.  I agree to restricting the EXACT locations of species that may be in
danger if their localities were known - but only then to about a half degree

Arthur D. Chapman  [Scientific Coordinator, Biogeographic Information, ERIN]

Environmental Resources Information Network     internet: arthur at
GPO Box 636, Canberra,                             voice: +61-6-2500 376
ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA                                  fax: +61-6-2500 360

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