New Universal Taxonomy Database

Les Kaufman lesk at BU.EDU
Fri Jul 5 18:15:39 CDT 2002

I leave it to my colleagues at the MBL, particularly Dave Remsen, to
field the querry about the relationship between activities of UBIO and
the Linnaean Society.
UBIO is something of slightly broader scope as well as more immediate
utility, I believe- at least in terms of providing a bridge to taxonomy
and systematics for the phylogenetically challenged who want to do
comparative biology and access information about natural history.

Ken Kinman wrote:
>      Well, we don't know the details yet, but I think it sounds very
> promising.  The very name of the project makes me very optimistic ("Indexer"
> and "Organizer").
>      It sounds to me like they will be attempting to be sort of
> organizational hub that will make the myriad of projects easier to navigate.
>   And indexing would also be extremely helpful.
>      And I think Bill misunderstood what Remsen was saying about the
> difficulties of navigating inconsistent taxonomies.  This is particularly
> true of the Tree of Life, where cladistic Amphibia is much different from
> traditional Amphibia, and trying to navigate the phylogeny of protists must
> be a nightmare for most people.  UBIO could be very valuable for those who
> find the clashing of cladistic and traditional classifications bewildering
> (not to mention when cladistic classifications clash with one another, which
> is already a problem in dinosaur science).  This is the kind of thing I
> think Remsen was referring to (and if so, I think he is right).
>      If it is well-done, I think the UBIO Project could make a wonderful
> "quilt" out of the patchwork we have so far.  The devil will be in the
> details, but taxonomy could certainly use a good clearinghouse for indexing
> and organization if it takes advantage of (and networks with) what we
> already have in place.  My intuition is that this will be a very good thing.
>            ------ Cheers,  Ken
> *****************************************
> >From: Mary Barkworth <Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU>
> >Reply-To: Mary Barkworth <Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU>
> >Subject: Re: New Universal Taxonomy Database
> >Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002 10:04:51 -0600
> >
> >It also duplicates several existing efforts, but some of those efforts
> >have not obtained the funding that they need to achieve their goals (so
> >far as I am aware).  It is a messy situation. Let us hope that they are
> >planning to work with other projects and not try to have a completely
> >different system.
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: Bill Shear [mailto:wshear at EMAIL.HSC.EDU]
> >Sent: Friday, July 05, 2002 9:55 AM
> >Subject: Re: New Universal Taxonomy Database
> >
> >
> >On 7/4/02 2:30 PM, "Ken Kinman" <kinman at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> >
> > > Dear All,
> > >    Has there been any discussion on TAXACOM of the Marine Biological
> > > Laboratory's new universal taxonomy database (the UBIO Project)?  The
> >MBL's
> > > monthly newsletter for April 2002 announced a $500,000 grant from the
> >Andrew
> > > W. Mellon Foundation to help support this comprehensive database.
> > >    WOW!!!  And here's a link to (and one sentence from) the UPI press
> > > release on Tuesday:
> > >
> > >
> >
> >And more from the press release:
> >
> >                     "This scientific dilemma is compounded by the fact
> >that
> >taxonomy -- the science of classifying and naming organisms -- is
> >scattered
> >into dozens of specialties, each with its own often jealously guarded
> >way of
> >handling things. "Fish experts don't really care about sponges and the
> >dinosaurs, and so you have fish-based and ant-based and mammal-based
> >solutions," Remsen said. "Navigating all that information is hard
> >because
> >you have to re-learn the taxonomy every time -- there's no consistency
> >to
> >it."
> >
> >This is rubbish--there are only 3 systems, and they do not differ by
> >much.
> >ALL animal taxonomy is governed by the ICZN, which you only have to
> >learn
> >once.  But of course you would have to learn the taxonomy of sponges as
> >a
> >new endeavor if you were a fish specialist--or any other kind of
> >specialist.
> >So you don't have to "relearn the taxonomy" every time, only once for
> >each
> >group that interests you.  What this guy is implying is that there is an
> >entirely separate system of naming and of categories for each
> >taxon--makes
> >you wonder about his capabilities for organizing this worthwhile
> >endeavor.
> >
> >But hey--aren't they too late?  Nature and Henry Gee have already
> >decreed
> >that the Linnean Society is going to handle it....
> >
> >Bill Shear
> _________________________________________________________________
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Les Kaufman
Biology Department
Boston University
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Boston, MA 02215
lesk at
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