unionization and charges

Andrew Nelson anelson at OSWEGO.EDU
Sat Feb 21 10:56:37 CST 1998

Peter Rauch wrote:
> With respect to _what_ (rather than _who_), isn't it much more important
> these days that the validity (accuracy) of specimen _determinations_ be
> reliable (which determinations are often _not_ done by the leading
> experts in the taxa being handled), than is the problem of validating
> the systematist's/taxonomist's publication of new species/combinations/
> (which is usually subjected to an editorial peer review)?
> As good as keys el al may be, they're often seriously deficient and in
> the hands of less than the taxon's expert taxonomist, they can be
> "dangerous" (e.g., if used as a basis for making environmental
> management decisions, ecological study analyses. etc).
> So, as you discuss the relative pros and cons of certification, try to
> address each of these "services" independently --the description and
> publication of new names/species/combinations (whether or not the names
> are "sold"), and the determination of environmental/ecological study
> material (often not peer reviewed, and not published as taxonomy in any
> case).
> (Am I right? Are many/most determinations of specimens for
> ecological/environmental studies (including those "studies" done to
> satisfy ESA and other legal requirements) NOT done by the taxonomic
> specialists expert in the taxa in question?)
>   Peter

Having been involved in work of this sort for the last few years, I
think I can safely say that most determinations of specimens for
ecological/environmental studies are indeed not done by the specialists
expert in the taxa in question.  Much is done by overworked and under
compensated biologists or naturalists with only elementary training in
systematics.  Reports which may influence critical decisions about
vulnerable species and habitats are filed with public and private
agencies without peer review of any sort.  Rarely do I see reference to
the availability of voucher specimens or to the literature on which
identification or nomenclature is based.  In studies of the wetlands of
the eastern Lake Ontario coastal region where I work some of the most
potentially informative vascular plant species are lumped as "sedges" or
"Carex sp."

We cannot deal effectively with certification if we have no personnel to
certify.  There must be greater recognition of the need to train
students to carefully and reliably identify organisms in the field,
laboratory and museum setting, to document their work, and to know when
to consult specialists in critical groups.

Andrew P. Nelson                        anelson at oswego.edu
Rice Creek Field Station                        Office FAX 315/342-0347
Oswego State University                         Office Voice 315/342-0961
Oswego, New York 13126                          http://www.oswego.edu/~rcreek/

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