What are we going to do...

Barbara Ertter ertter at UCJEPS.HERB.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Oct 21 13:39:36 CDT 1996

As a follow-up to Cholewa's sidebar to Zolnerowich's comments:

>Perhaps we have been our own worst enemy in more ways than one.
>We often don't instill in our students an appreciation for the
>facility that is our cornerstone--the herbarium-as-museum.

I find it more useful to present the herbarium-as-laboratory, to wit, that
a major herbarium (plus affiliated library) represents the fully equipped
lab needed for heavy-duty alpha taxonomy (and a lab that is not readily
created from scratch by a grant, no matter how big).  The paradox is that
the major universities that have the best such alpha taxonomy labs are
often the same ones who feel their continued status depends on only the
most cutting-edge research,  resulting in a dog-in-the-manger situation.  I
maintain that universities with major herbaria (and corresponding
collections for other taxa) have an OBLIGATION to hire faculty who NEED the
herbarium-as-laboratory, instead of filling all available slots with
molecularly-oriented and theoretical systematists on the assumption that
the smaller academic insitutions are the appropriate slots for something as
mundane as alpha taxonomy.  Otherwise, the universities themselves are the
main culprits in the loss of alpha taxonomic expertise, by evicting the
practioners from their laboratories, and then wondering why the resultant
orphaned collection is not being used.  Like replacing nuclear physicists
with economists and then wondering why the cyclotron isn't getting used...

Dr. Barbara Ertter
ertter at ucjeps.herb.berkeley.edu
University and Jepson Herbaria
1001 VLSB #2465
University of California
Berkeley, CA  94720-2465 USA
FAX 510-643-5390

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