"Threat" to types (or institutions?)

Arthur Chapman arthur at ERIN.GOV.AU
Tue Jul 11 09:12:23 CDT 1995

In all the discussions so far, one compromise solution that may
work in a large number of cases has not yet been mentioned.

Specimen repatriation has been discussed ad infinitum with usually
as much heat as this one has engendered.  New and emerging technologies,
and the imminent development of a Clearing House Mechanism under the
Convention on Biological Diversity, provides a unique opportunity to
look at "data repatriation" rather than "specimen repatriation".  This
does not mean that specimen repatriation is not appropriate in some
cases, but may not be in all.

More and more collections are being databased and the information put
up on the Internet.  Computer video technology is such that a video
camera can be set up in an institution and specimens passed under it on
demand, or a video camera may be remotely manipulated in such a way
that the remote observer can move the camera around a specimen, zoom
etc. by use of voice commands or joy stick.

OK, so this is not available to all at the moment - but neither can the
specimens be repatriated today.  To repatriate just important type
specimens from some of the major instutions would take years, even
decades and would be an enormous cost.  Cost, not only in terms of
money and (extremely limited) staff resources, but in wear and tear
on the specimens themselves.  Perhaps that cost could go into
getting developing countries on the internet and setting up appropriate
videoing systems and software.  This would not only benefit the
originating country, but those where specialists may reside and who
also need access to type specimens.  Some of the cost may also go into
databasing the World's type specimens - not only the label information,
but also descriptions (in DELTA format).  The original descriptions
could also be scanned in saving oodles of time and effort by researchers
searching for obscure literature references (as important in developing
countries as the type specimen) and often retyping information.

As Jim Croft recently suggested - every species name could have its own
URL on the Internet which could include photographs, description,
label information, protologue, etc. along with an address, etc. whereby
one may see the specimen by video.

This is not fanciful - it is all possible now!


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

Environmental Resources Information Network     internet: arthur at erin.gov.au
GPO Box 787, Canberra,                             voice: +61-6-274 1066
ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA                                  fax: +61-6-274 1333

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