collections and evil collectors

Casey tuckercj at MUOHIO.EDU
Thu Apr 17 16:04:25 CDT 2003

I'm not sure if I agree with your assessment of collectors as "evil".
Unfortunately, there are individuals out there who give the rest of us a
bad reputation.  My institution just had its first experience with a
less then honorable individual with collectors-fever.  Our ornithology
collection is primarily utilized for teaching purposes, & some local
conservation initiatives.  Most of the specimens in the collection
represent local species.  We were fortunate, however, to have specimens
from the Bahamas & Guyana because of a former researcher who used to
travel there from time to time.  A researcher from the University of
Kansas Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center contacted
us about doing a trade for the specimens that we had from Guyana & the
Bahamas.  In exchange for these specimens he agreed to provide us with
some specimens to fill in gaps in our collection so that we had better
educational representation of the local avifauna.  When he came to pick
up the Guyana & Bahamas specimens (which collectively totaled approx. 80
specimens), he also found some specimens of local species that he felt
would benefit their collections, & we had duplicates of.  When he was
finished he had in his possession 80 specimens from Guyana & the Bahamas
& another approx. 130 specimens representing the local avifauna.  We
presented him with a list of approx. 50-60 specimens that we could use
to fill in gaps in our comparatively small collection.  He went through
& noted which specimens he could get us in 6 months & which ones he
could get for us in 2 years (because of the time to acquire them &
prepare them).  Six months later he backed out of the deal & we were
given only 6 specimens (in poor condition), that he had acquired by
scavenging another institutional collection a couple of weeks prior to
visiting our collection.  During his visit he also recounted stories in
which members of that institution commonly collected specimens without
proper permits in possession, or collected local specimens for
identification only later to have to resort to DNA for proper
identification (which could have been obtained non-lethally).
Unfortunately, it is individuals like this who give other researchers a
bad reputation & only make it more difficult to work with governmental
organizations & NGO's both locally and abroad.

Just my 2 cents.

Casey Tucker
Dept. of Zoology
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio 45056
tuckercj at

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at USOBI.ORG] On Behalf Of
Ron Gatrelle
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 3:27 PM
Subject: [TAXACOM] collections and evil collectors

Political correctness is a reality.  Over the last century "collectors"
have become synonymous with poachers in some circles.   This prejudice
now moved down the food chain from birds to bugs. I am convinced there
is a
direct correlation between the view of collectors as evil and
as not needed.

If the above is accurate, then this is not just a pragmatic issue with
pragmatic solutions, it is a perception issue.   Science has not taken a
stand against radical environmentalism.  (I see conservationists and
environmentalists differently, with the latter being far more political
agenda orientated.)

Ron Gatrelle

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