job offers

Robin Leech robinl at CONNECT.AB.CA
Mon Oct 4 15:25:06 CDT 1999

Gentlemen and ladies,

Don't forget where the dollars lie!  There is not much money out there to
support a student in taxonomy (=systematics), but there are gobs of dollars
out there for the moleculars.

If you will reflect, E.O. Wilson discussed this in his book called
"Naturalist".  One whole chapter yet!!

My science is called cheap science.  Essentially all I need are microscopes,
spiders, a reasonable library, e-mail (yup, the scopes, the library, and
e-mail all from my own pockets), and I am away.  I can either do my own
collecting on my own time (as I have been doing for over 30 years), or I can
work on stuff that others have collected (which I also do).

Departments want showy science, and they want scientists who can bring in
big money.  With the success rate for scientific funds running at less than
20%, it does not look promising for a student, and many a prof will advise
the students so.   So much of today's funded science is "fad" science - an
aspect of science which today is very popular, but not so tomorrow.
Taxonomy has never been a showy science.

Things will always be better in the future - or so I have been told many
times.  Get your degree and they will clamor for your body - I was told
that, too.  I came onto the market just as thousands of scientists were
being laid off from NASA.  The collapse of big bucks in NASA meant that many
formerly "in"  or "fad" areas of science were cut short, and that there were
many, many people looking for work, many with years of experience.

On the other hand, perhaps governments - and the public, too, cuz
politicians respond to their cries - do not want or have a perceived need
for many taxonomists who can raise issues about a rare or endangered this or
that, stall "progress" on a dam or a road.   No dam or no road means no jobs
for that part of the public living in the proposed dam or road area.

Here in Alberta, not even a federal government injunction stopped a
provincial government and its departments from completing an unnecessary dam
in a place where it was not wanted, and which, when the rains came, did not
prevent the downstream floods as it was supposed to.  The area had never
been surveyed for invertebrates before the dam, and now the area cannot be

Robin Leech

----- Original Message -----
From: Russ Spangler <spangler at OEB.HARVARD.EDU>
Sent: Monday, October 04, 1999 11:18 AM
Subject: Re: job offers

> Post-doc support for systematists is, indeed, always necessary, but the
> comment on the type of applicants for the available jobs needs to also
> address the issue of basic training.  Support for, and more importantly,
> direction given to graduate students to maintain a supply of scientists
> entering systematics with a molecular and traditional approach is the
> necessary first step to produce the future post-docs who would need the
> funding.  Maybe the issue should be moved to the departments who do or do
> not actively train and support graduate students to practice the type of
> science they later want to hire people to do.  At this point in time, the
> number of programs offering training at that level seems to be the weak
> link in the system.
> Russ Spangler
> spangler at
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> Russ Spangler                    spangler at
> Harvard University Herbaria
> 22 Divinity Avenue               Herbaria room 315
> Cambridge, MA  02138             (617) 496-1566
>                                 FAX: (617) 495-9484

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