modern systematics and permanent specimens

James Lyons-Weiler weiler at ERS.UNR.EDU
Fri Jul 26 16:04:11 CDT 1996

On Fri, 26 Jul 1996, Steve Boyd wrote:

> Joe wrote:
> >...   I must say that I have seen systematists make similar oversights within
> >their own field. Most molecular systematists have enough sense to make
> >permanent specimens representing the terminal taxa they are investigating,
> >but I have seen a few who did not. They will publish elaborate cladograms
> >and detailed analyses thereof, but if you try to determine which organisms
> >are represented, it is nearly impossible without permanent specimens.
> >What, then, is the point of doing the analyses?....
> Here at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Herbarium we are often hitting the
> graduate students with the phrase "no voucher - no data".  I first heard
> Brian Boom utter these words at the BRIT symposium several years ago and it
> really hit home.  I hope that if our grad students hear these sacred words
> enough, the concept will sink in and they will become advocates of
> collections when they move on in their careers.
I may be in the minority, but I doubt it.  As a graduate student, I am
amazed and at times overwhelmed by the general wealth and utility afforded
by permanent collections, even a modest one.  The person-hours that make
collections permanent are immense; decades and careers have been spent to
construct a lasting legacy of knowable biodiversity.  Students should but
don't need to travel thousands of kilometers when all they need do is
pluck a hair from a mount here, or clip .1 mg of plant tissue there,
return and begin genetic analyses.

Collections represent genetic archives, just as the living organisms do.
To question the value of a collection is to question the value of
biodiversity itself.  Let's hope the molecular generation has the same
amount of foresight to permanently preserve the whole genomic DNA
extractions from all types of samples.  These samples need as much
curation and archivability as do organismal collections.


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