releasing rare sp. localities

Michael.Chamberland 23274MJC at MSU.EDU
Sun Dec 8 17:56:00 CST 1996

> From:         Charlie and Marg Baker <cmbaker at TELEPORT.COM>
> I think professionals should remember that over the years, interested
> amateurs, while they may have been annoying, <VBG> have made some
> significant contributions. Why aren't "professionals" eager to enroll the
> often enthusiastic support of relatively knowledgable outsiders? It is
> often interested "amateurs" who generate public interest in supporting
> public funding for research and collection maintenance.

The reason professionals are not eager to enroll the support of "outsiders"
(ie. organism hobbyists) is IMHO, because these hobbyists only offer
support on THIER terms.  I participate in both the Carnivorous plant and
Cactus & Succulent listserve groups.  Hobbyists on these lists direct a
tremendous amount of vitriol at taxonomists who are "messing up" the names
of "their" plants!  Many of these hobbyists freely express the opinion that
professional taxonomists, horticulturists, and conservationists are [all]
incompetent.  The hobbyists feel that working with their private plant
collections provides them with a better understanding of systematics than
the professionals.  They feel they do a better job of cultivation than
botanical gardens.  They feel plants are "conserved" better in the safety
of their greenhouses than in the wild.

Not all hobbyists are of this mindset.  There are a few "professionals" on
the newsgroups, and we try to educate the hobbyists about the essentials
of taxonomy, conservation, and public horticulture.  But this amounts to
almost constant flame war between the professionals and the hobbyists who
understand what they're doing, vs. the hobbyists who feel taxonomists and
conservationists are a clique of incompetent public workers with access to
all the "goodies" (like rare plant data and collection permits).  This
online "war" resembles the evolution vs. creationism controversy.  Like
that battle, this one is also an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the
newcomers to the hobby.

Indeed, some amateurs have made substantial contibutions to science, ie.
Fred Katterman and his work on S. American cacti, or Fred Case, and his
work with Sarracenia and orchids of the midwest.  These amateurs have
excelled because they worked WITH the professionals and not because they
bucked the system and collected illegally or ignored the ICBN.

> Of coarse not, was there any suggestion of that? I am sorry to see you
> imply that all non-professional users of information are children that
> need supervision even over their use of  data. Is this really the way you
> feel? I sincerely hope not.

Actually "children" is a very good description of the behavior of many
hobbyists.  I say "many", not all, probably not even most, but certainly
the loudest!  I started this thread on releasing rare plant locality data
on Taxacom, after an exhausting "flame war" on the Carnivorous plant
listserve.  Some members of the listserve felt a precise locality map of all
carnivorous plant localities should be made available on the web.  I and
others argued against this.  The curious thing is that advocates of the
map never did volunteer a reason why they "needed" this map or what they'd
do with the information.  It was their "right" to have this data.  It was
no "right" of the professionals providing the data to know what it would
be used for!

Michael Chamberland

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