Burning library

Monique Reed monique at MAIL.BIO.TAMU.EDU
Fri Aug 23 08:51:16 CDT 2002

If I may add one small thing to this wonderful analogy...

What if some of the fire-fighters and book rescuers don't know what the texts in the library look like?  Some might be regular bound codices, some might be scrolls, some might be microfiche, old 8 mm video tape, stacks of punchcards, or zip disks.  There might be valuable scribbles on the pad by the telephone.

The linguistics experts (those wizards who can decode the language of DNA) will be able to read what is saved, but we also need some good old field biologists to say, "Hey--look at this."

It is sad to know that there are researchers out there who can show you strings and strings of sequenced DNA or give you a complex tree showing relationships among hundreds of taxa--but they don't know what their research organisms look like.  They could tell you that sample #23-A578 has a compound for curing cancer, but they wouldn't recognize the organism in the field--or its relatives, if that's where they want to look next.

It will take all of us.

Monique Reed

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