[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Wed Jun 17 00:00:36 CDT 2009

Hi Bob

Ok, I will see, that I can produce some data from our databases covering
ants, and may be some other hymenoptera taxa.

Your question though raises an issue, that I am sure has also been covered
many time, what is the relevant figure to look at. Taxonomists or
descriptions, or expertise. At the e-ebiosphere meeting in London, there was
a figure of EU600M circulating as the budget of the natural history museums
in the Eurpean Union. This is not a small figure, and would say that there
is a considerable amount of money in taxonomy, unless our community
frivolously misspends (from a taxonomists-wanting-to-describe-taxa point of
view). And that is just the European Union.

Let me get some "hard" data from our databases so we have at least something
to go from anecdotal to less anecdotal.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au] 
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:12 AM
To: Donat Agosti
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu; pete.devries at gmail.com
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Donat, your anecdotal evidence that people are attracted to certain projects
is very interesting. However every review of taxonomy I have read in the
past 15 years tells me that the number of working taxonomists is decreasing.
What solid evidence is there that the number of working taxonomists has been
increased by the availability of digital tools? Or are you simply hopeful
that this will happen?

And once attracted, how are new taxonomists going to make a living as
professionals? Is the number of job openings for taxonomists increasing?

Note that I am talking about taxonomy in the traditional sense: the
discovery, documentation and classification of life. If you believe that
taxonomy includes gathering up COI barcodes and building trees with them
without careful study of the whole organisms, let alone formally naming and
describing them, then we have another difference of opinion.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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