nameless taxonomy

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Mon Feb 3 10:20:15 CST 2003

So, David,

What you're saying is that if we aren't already doing "DNA" work, we should
be?  Are you speaking as someone who already has the facilities (if not in
your lab, then in your department) and training to conduct such studies?  A
great many of us are still trying to sort out
morphological/anatomical/physiological/ecological aspects of the taxa we
work with, and that work is quite time-consuming.  I suspect that most of us
don't have the time or facilities to add the next layer to what we are
already trying to do.

Unfortunately, fundamental (alpha) taxonomy is already viewed as out-dated
and of little real value by too many.  We, as a community of systematists,
need to make sure that those who have such a view understand that what we do
requires information from as many sources as possible and few, if any, of us
can cover all the bases by ourselves.  That's why collaborative,
multi-author papers are becoming much more common.


David Orlovich wrote:

> That brings me to my main thought.  Someone expressed concern that the
> provocative comments of Paul Herbert would cause harm to taxonomy and
> systematics because administrative bean-counters might find the idea
> attractive, and channel money away from traditional systematics
> research.  Let's use the other half of the brain for a moment ... apart
> from salary (which I'll assume for this argument is paid for by your
> institution), what is the most expensive aspect of non-molecular
> systematics research?  I'd say field work.  So, if you're going to
> write a grant application to carry out traditional systematics
> research, how will you get the most amount of money?  Molecular
> projects need fieldwork too, so you'll get fieldwork with a molecular
> project, molecular projects need herbarium consumables (for vouchers
> etc, so you can ask for all of those), molecular projects use a lot of
> chemical consumables, so you can order all your histological stains,
> mounting media etc there.  The big bonus is that once you've run out of
> traditional items to put into your budget, you can add molecular things
> - dedicated sets of automatic pipetters, molecular biology consumables,
> sequencing costs etc - and what's more, if you use them, you'll get all
> this extra data that you didn't have before.  You'll be able to start
> asking evolutionary questions not possible with traditional
> systematics.  You'll be able to test your hypotheses of relationships,
> you'll be able to compare genetic variation with morphological
> variation ... lots of things.

Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

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