Who's doing identification

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Tue Oct 22 18:14:29 CDT 1996

At 04:39 PM 10/22/96 -0700, T Sholars wrote:
>Often environmental reviews are written with plant species listed that
>don't occur in the area.The review may  even  have improper species
>selection in the restoration section.
>Systematists then get called to review documents (often for free) to see if
>if there is improper species identification.

[HUMOR ON] Appropriate answer: "Yes". If they want to know more, they pay.

Seriously, I've grappled with the consulting issue, too, and I don't feel
good about any of the solutions.  Below is a portion of an editorial I wrote
when I was editor of Crossosoma (journal of Southern California Botanists).
In the editorial, I took California Native Plant Society to task for an
issue that is now more or less resolved, so I've left out that part.

Who Owns California Botany?

The issue goes beyond the selling price of the CNPS Electronic Inventory. I
am a university botanist, and I curate a small herbarium. By tradition,
herbarium curators have provided plant identification to the general public,
for free. For some curators, this is an assigned duty, but for many others,
including me, plant identification is not a part of our job description.
Recently, a former student came to ask help with identifying some plants.
She had a bachelor=92s degree in zoology, she was working for an=
consulting company, and she had no training in plant identification.

As a curator, I could have identified the plants for her. But I, like many
other university botanists, am also a freelance consultant, and as such I am
paid to identify plants. I explained that to her and offered to identify the
plants for my usual rate, which she declined.

I don=92t think consulting companies should be able to get information for
free in one circumstance that they would have to pay for in another. But it
bothers me that botanical information has become a commodity, to be bought
and sold. When an interest in plants was restricted to gardeners and
=93posy-pickers=94, information about plants was traded freely. Times have
changed. When I first learned that I could be paid for identifying a plant,
I was elated beyond measure=97finally someone recognized the true worth of
what I do. But that =93true worth=94 has come to mean that information about
plants is sold, not given, and a lot of the pleasure has gone out of


Curtis Clark                       http://www.is.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Biological Sciences Department                     Voice: (909) 869-4062
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona    FAX:   (909) 869-4396
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                          jcclark at csupomona.edu

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