species names for money

Les Kaufman lesk at BIO.BU.EDU
Fri Feb 13 11:58:11 CST 1998

I believe it may have been me who started that discussion, or at least
added fuel to the fire.  The problem was that we wish to fund the training
of Kenyan, Ugandan, and Tanzanian taxonomists for biodiversity work in the
Lake Victoria region, and to fund the work itself, and we are having
difficulty doing so.  The issue extends beyond fishes, they just happen to
be my group.  So I proposed selling the honor of honorary specific names in
return for sufficient funds to train one student for one year, plus
research costs. The figure came to the $50K that was independently arrived
at in a busload of conservation biologists driving through old growth
forest in Oregon.  Stu Pimm said birds go for $100K, Dana Meadows said why
not $50K for my fishes?  That amount would cover tuition, stipend, books
for one year, alcohol/jars and other supplies, and a workstation for the
student with microscope, calipers, and computer, plus part of the cost of a
postdoc.  I need the postdoc because the person I had in mind is the other
person, a junior colleague, who can actually recognize the fishes.  The
result of all this would be more knowledgeable, conservation-oriented,
local biologists, some new colleagues in the world, and maybe completion of
a good chunk of the massive amount of work that needs to be done.  That
can't but help everybody.  If we are stuck with a few non-descriptive
specific names (which I am otherwise opposed to), that seems a small price
to pay.  People get upset over the oddest things.

I interpreted the outcome of the discussion as luke-positive, not exactly
downright enthusiastic.  That was enough for me though.  My next step was a
visit to the BU Development Department, and just yesterday we finally met
and decided it is high time to go ahead.  I am going ahead with this.  We
thought about this far too carefully and long.  It was getting silly
already, and meanwhile several carefully written formal proposals to do the
same work had been turned down because they were too ambitious, or because
fishes were considered too well known among the various taxa competing for
taxonomic funding.  Eventually, of course, we will get other funding, and
can then slack off on selling gold bricks, which frankly, would be a great
relief at this juncture.  Wish me, and the students, good luck.

>Colleagues: A couple of years ago there was a debate about the advisability
>of naming species after donors of large amounts of money. One apparently
>cannot get access to that discussion right now (there are problems with the
>TAXACOM archive), and I wondered if anyone saved the messages and could
>forward them to me <bbrown at nhm.org>. I also wondered if there was any change
>in the consensus (which was highly supportive of the idea). Briefly stated:
>if a group of curators at a museum decided to sell species names to help
>fund their
>programs, would there be any negative perceptions? I have heard some people
>say that it might seem disreputable, and I would like to hear anyone's reasons
>for this opinion.
>Please respond to the list. Thanks.

Les Kaufman
Boston University Marine Program
Department of Biology
Boston University
5 Cummington Street
Boston, MA 02215

e-mail: lesk at bio.bu.edu
phone: 617-353-5560
fax:   617-353-6340

More information about the Taxacom mailing list