the future of taxonomic expertise

John Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Tue Feb 2 08:08:47 CST 1999

. Very little plant taxonomy is taught in British
>(and I suspect other European) Universities at under-graduate level,
>and the number of taught post-graduate courses can be counted on one
>hand. I guess the situation is not very different in zoology.

>Dr Stephan Helfer, SSO
>Senior Mycologist - MSc Course Director

I had the fortune to have a "classical" education in zoology and botany
that provided at least two years of taxonomically oriented knowledge of the
whole spectrum of plants and animals. I had the misfortune to see this
approach dismembered and discarded in the ensuing years as the departments
moved into the hitech world of molecular biology.
Now I repeatedly see molecular biologists being given the responsibility
for taxonomic education (what little may be left) while being dismally
aware of the non-molecular form and structure of biology. I recently
experienced meeting a molecular biologist responsible for teaching a plant
systematics class who was totally ignorant of the diversity of plant
structure that I, as a non-botanist, was at least aware of. I could see
that the students would be channeled down a narrow path providing a brief
glimmer of simplistic arrangements and definitions. Ironically, that
biologist was insistent that the basic problems of angiosperm evolution had
been solved - by molecules of course.

John Grehan

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