[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Sat Jun 6 21:12:38 CDT 2009

Updating skills is fine, but it remains to be seen whether some
molecular techniques represent an update or not.

John Grehan

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Zander
> Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 6:10 PM
> To: Peter DeVries; Kleo Pullin
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy
> I agree with Peter DeVries about the need to update skills. I remember
> when, oh so long ago, taxonomists were downright proud to be
> trades as far as techniques went, reveling in the ability to use
> chromosome squashes, cultivation in common gardens and reciprocal
> transplants, emerging blue from a walk-in freezer with a tiny tube of
> struggling with phenetic analysis and MANOVA and whatnot.
> Learning molecular analysis is not hard, and the techniques are more
> and-dried than choosing a statistical method (Gower's? Mahalonobis?)
> certainly more intuitive than the codes of nomenclature. I think if
> associated baggage of classification by holophyly is eliminated,
> analysis will be just another technique in evolutionary taxonomy that
> use to reconstruct lineage linkages and isolation events.
> _______________________
> Richard H. Zander
> Missouri Botanical Garden
> PO Box 299
> St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
> richard.zander at mobot.org
> ________________________________
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Peter DeVries
> Sent: Thu 6/4/2009 1:11 PM
> To: Kleo Pullin
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy
> I think there are two issues that contribute to this problem
> 1) Marketing - Taxonomists are not very good at demonstrating how
> work
> is valuable. Look at how the Hubble Telescope has changed how people
> of Astronomy.
> 2) Culture - In the middle part of my scientific career I helped
> microscopes and microscopy techniques. In that culture, if you had a
> potentially good idea people were excited and willing to try it out.
> some
> cases, these were very successful. When I moved back into science from
> network administration I thought wow, here is an area that could
> benefit from a number of tools I would like to develop. Unlike my
> experience, I found a number of people unwilling to change the way the
> things even if it made them dramatically more productive. Some were
> down right hostile, implying that I was not a "real" entomologist. At
> time I thought, they don't seem to think that fruit fly embryo's are
> insects.
> Scientists in other fields are forced to continually update their
> and
> techniques.
> I think that if taxonomy is going to continue to thrive, the community
> will
> need to be more accepting of new ideas, techniques and technology.
> Respectfully,
> - Pete
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