[Taxacom] eol in nyt

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Sep 7 05:15:03 CDT 2007

Nobody is arguing that EoL will solve all the problems -- or even most of
the problems.  My only argument is that it would (or at least could) help
more than hurt.  And the notion that the money that is to be spent on EoL
being redirected to fieldwork or other areas that we perceive as higher
priority is, as far as I understand it, pure fallacy (see Taxacom thread

Fair point on most new species not being in Museums; but again, it's a
start. Actually, I'm increasingly of the belief that "most" new species (by
far) aren't even eukaryotes -- part of Wilson's reference to the "dark
matter of the bisophere" -- but that's a discussion for another thread, on
another day.

And...one final point that I didn't make before (mostly because even I, with
my cheery optimism, won't believe it until I see it) is that EoL at least
has the *potential* to raise the level of awareness of the need for
biodiversity cataloging among the general public consciousness.  Maybe (JUST
maybe) that could eventually transfer to the national agendas of money-rich
governements, which might (JUST might) further translate into more funding,
more job positions, and perhaps even more field-based collecting.

O.K., so that may be a stretch.  But I still maintain that the potential for
good exceeds the potential for harm, overall. And that includes the
acceleration of documenting new species.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bob Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au] 
> Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 11:39 PM
> To: TAXACOM; deepreef at bishopmuseum.org; p.kirk at cabi.org
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] eol in nyt
> Paul Kirk and Richard Pyle both see EOL as a time-saver. If 
> taxonomists spend less time doing the office-based fiddly 
> bits of taxonomy, then they'll have more time to go out and 
> discover new biodiversity.
> It's a nice qualitative argument but I'd like to see the 
> numbers. Most taxonomists I know work for organisations whose 
> demands consume (notice I didn't say "waste") a large 
> proportion of those taxonomists' working hours. Taxonomists 
> in these places struggle to find time to do the fiddly bits, 
> let alone do fieldwork. How many hours will get saved by EOL, 
> and how many of those hours will be "organisationally" 
> available for fieldwork?
> Then there's the small matter of funding. An expert on 
> Improbabilidae says to his museum director, "EOL is saving me 
> a month a year on taxonomic fiddly bits. How about you 
> sending me to Kalimantan for a month? It's got the highest 
> diversity of Improbabilidae on the planet, and ongoing forest 
> destruction is wiping them out fast." And the director 
> replies, "How much more is that month going to cost us if 
> you're in Kalimantan rather than at your desk? Where are we 
> supposed to get the money? EOL?"
> Richard also makes the argument, which isn't hard to back up 
> with examples, that most new species are discovered in 
> museums. That is *not* the same as "most new species are in 
> museums". If Wilson and others are correct, most new species 
> haven't been collected yet, and I don't see how EOL is going 
> to help find them.
> There's only one way to discover undiscovered life, and 
> that's to go out and look for it. If Wilson wants to find and 
> document the remaining 90% in a generation, he's going to 
> have to multiply by several times the field effort of the 
> past 250 years in 25 years. Whether that's a job for 
> taxonomists at the "fiddly bits" end of the business, or an 
> army of trained collectors, isn't the point. The point is 
> that EOL won't massively increase our field effort.
> --
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate, Queen Victoria Museum and Art 
> Gallery and School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
> Contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Australian millipedes checklist
> http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/zoology/millipedes/index.html
> Tasmanian multipedes
> http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/zoology/multipedes/mulintro.html
> Spatial data basics for Tasmania
> http://www.utas.edu.au/spatial/locations/index.html
> Biodiversity salvage blog
> http://biodiversitysalvage.blogspot.com
> ---

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