multiple [collectors]

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Sun May 23 18:19:11 CDT 1999

>Fred Schueler wrote:

>But computerization is the path to head towards in my view.  Knowledge about
>collections is too valuable to be restricted by the label that will fit on a
>insect-sized tag.  It is not just a question of collectors names, but exact
>location, habitat, weather, collecting method, and many other items
>appropriate to the discipline, that should be recorded.
>Data can be transferred from field sheets or field notebooks directly into
>the computer on return from collecting.  And it has become more and more
>practical to carry laptop computer right into the field.  Batteries are
>becoming better and car adapters are available for manylaptops.

Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, I can point out that the odds of
losing data that are purely electronic are vastly higher than the odds of
losing data that exist in hard copy. Operating with no backup is a bad idea
(and yes, I realize you are *probably* not operating without backup, but
it's impossible to tell for sure).
        From my perspective as an entomologist, I also find this botanical
preoccupation with collector's numbers - as if they were absolutely
necessary - to be rather extreme. There are hundreds of millions of insect
specimens that have no collector's numbers (thank goodness), and it does
not seem to have hampered the science of entomology one bit. In what way
are these numbers viewed as necessary for botany? In fact, use of numbers
could be counterproductive; back around the turn of the century it does
seem to have been used for insects, and I'm grateful the practice died out.
I've seen a great many old insects in collections that have some
collector's number or accession number on them, and nothing more.
Naturally, the vast majority have no associated books to decipher the
codes, if only because the insects got spread all over, while the books
stayed with the original collector or institution. These specimens are now
mostly worthless (after all, the code doesn't tell you who the collector
was, nor the institution, so there's no way to track them down). While I'm
sure botanists didn't make this mistake often (if at all), the temptation
to use codes alone (presumably as a labor-saving device) obviously was
another bad idea.


Doug Yanega       Dept. of Entomology           Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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