Who's doing identification

Dennis Paulson dpaulson at MAIL.UPS.EDU
Wed Oct 23 16:29:31 CDT 1996

Teresa Sholars wrote:

>The lack of vouchered material is a serious problem in both consulting work
>and  ecological research (see Madrono, 1995 "The Future of California
>Floristics and Systematics: Collecting Guidelines and Documentation
>Techniques", Ferren, Maguey  and Sholars  )
>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.

The "often for free" phrase got to me.  I am frequently asked by
environmental consulting firms, environmental organizations, and
state/federal agencies, among others, to review documents about dragonflies
or birds and other vertebrates, very occasionally with monetary
compensation offered up front, but usually just because "you're an expert."
I guess if you work in a museum or university, it's your "job," and I've
done it for years.  My attitude began changing when it finally dawned on me
that I was (a) the person who knew the most about the subject, and (b) the
only one who wasn't getting paid for my involvement in the project.  So
I've become a little more resistant to such requests in recent years.

When you get to the "expert" or "resource person" stage, it seems you are
expected to supply that expertise to just about anyone who wants it.  If
you say you don't have time or ask for compensation, you end up feeling a
bit guilty because, after all, it's a document of importance to our
understanding of nature (for example, to confirm the accuracy of the local
distribution or habitat preferences of a whole list of species or to
identify feathers from a series of falcon nests).  Again and again, I've
had representatives of consulting firms or agencies tell me that they would
have been happy to pay me for my services, but they didn't have anything
budgeted for "subconsultants."

Here is another way in which not only taxonomists but scientists and
naturalists in general are being taken advantage of by society.  There are
probably many out there who lack my guilt feelings when they must
repeatedly say no, but I suspect others of you can relate to this problem.
Again, the problem is that we're undervalued.

Dennis Paulson, Director                           phone 206-756-3798
Slater Museum of Natural History                 fax 206-756-3352
University of Puget Sound                       e-mail dpaulson at ups.edu
Tacoma, WA 98416

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