"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Tue Aug 20 17:50:21 CDT 2002

In Richard Pyle's analogy, he wrote:

>So....the Library represents natural habitat on Planet Earth; the books
>represent biodiversity (their contents represent DNA sequences); the fire
>represents habitat destruction and associated extinction; the volunteers
>represent a limited resource (e.g., biodollars); and the vault across the
>street represents Natural History collections with their carefully preserved
>specimens.  The first approach puts all emphasis on habitat conservation
>(e.g., preserving the "live biodiversity"), whereas the second approach
>balances the emphasis on conservation and species inventory.

I'd have to disagree with your equation of "volunteers" with
"biodollars." I would argue that there is very little overlap between
dollars earmarked for habitat conservation and dollars earmarked for
natural history collections and taxonomy. It's not an either/or
proposition, at least not presently. I believe, however, one thing
we, as taxonomists, need to be doing is working out ways to
collaborate WITH those who have conservation dollars at their
disposal, because (as you go on to say):

>In the short-term, the inventory effort will also
>continue to sharpen our understanding of which sections of the "library" are
>truly the most important/unique, and thus will help re-focus conservation
>efforts more intelligently.

Myself, I'm not so sure the conservationists *realize* this or are
willing to act on it. Last time I looked at a World Wildlife Fund
report on projects they were funding, all but two focused on
vertebrates. One glance at the US list of Endangered Species and a
similar bias is immediately obvious. Developing captive breeding
programs for large endangered vertebrates is a popular conservation
tool, but accomplishes virtually nothing in the larger scheme. There
are two questions, in my mind: will anyone *listen* to what we have
to say if it differs from what is popular? Are we in a position to
bring about a change in governmental policies so habitats are
afforded legal protection, rather than species? If we can't answer
"yes" to either question, then all we can do is keep working on
collecting and curating specimens, and get more efficient at it; we
keep working on the vault, while the others waste all those buckets
of water. The final analysis will depend on who you ask: if they save
the bison and prairie chicken from extinction but the prairie
ecosystem and 5,000 endemic species of plants and arthropods are
lost, many people would rate that more succesful than losing the
bison and prairie chicken and saving the prairie. That's a hard
mindset to fight.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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