collaboration with taxonomists

Felix Sperling sperling at NATURE.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri May 23 09:46:28 CDT 1997

I just want to chime in to support some of the things that Mike Ivie
has been saying about the need to get out there and market ourselves,
particularly in terms of building connections with "others".

As an example of the kinds of funds that can be obtained if you try
non-traditional sources, I and a postdoc, Jeff Wells, have just
obtained funding for him to do systematic work on blowflies. The
funding source is the National Institute of Justice. This is not
exactly the kind of granting agency where the funds we attract will
reduce the available pool for other systematists. The connection is
the need for DNA-based identification of maggots that are
morphologically virtually indistinguishable. Different blowfly
species are crucial for allowing determination of time since death.

Any molecular clown can produce DNA-based diagnostics, of course.
What we are particularly proud of is that we have intentionally
chosen to sequence a gene region that will not only allow us to
distinguish species, even using fairly degraded DNA, but also
allows us to do much-needed phylogenetic work. There need not be
a conflict between short term practical aims and the even more
important long term aims of basic systematics.

Jeff Wells, by the way, is a blowfly ecologist who has put his
career on the line in support of the importance of a good foundation
of systematics for his study organisms. I think that all of us who
are card-carrying systematists should be doing our best to attract
collaboration with those many scientists we know down the hall or
at the other end of an email connection whose work hinges on accurate
identifications. A number of them will become competent systematists
in the process, and the ability of all of us to penetrate obscure funding
sources will only grow.

Please forgive the soapbox oration. The need for us to reach out is a
subject that I support passionately.

Felix Sperling

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 Felix Sperling                   office: 510 642 4296
 Assistant Professor              lab:    510 642 7410
 201 Wellman Hall                 fax:    510 642 7428
 ESPM - Insect Biology
 University of California         sperling at
 Berkeley,  CA  94720-3112

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