[Taxacom] article on taxonomy

Schindel, David schindeld at si.edu
Sat Feb 27 11:00:38 CST 2010

This is the first mention in this thread of the use of taxonomic data by non-taxonomists.  Other posts seem to presume that the importance of documenting biodiversity is self-justifying as a mission from On High.  I agree that taxonomy is a noble pursuit for scientific AND socio-economic reasons, but the discussion so far has focused on how taxonomic trends (informatics, molecular methods) affect taxonomists, not others.

Biodiversity/taxonomic data in the professional literature is not 'fit for use' by a wide range of stakeholder, users, donors, funders, and others.  It's not until these data are digitized, linked through string-names and molecular sequences (that can be more easily searched than morphological character states), and aggregated that non-taxonomists can find and use them.  When conservationists or government officials ask about the state of global biodiversity, pointing them to the literature and telling them the data are all there is not going to be well received.

Taxonomists who insist that the world should beat a path to their data in monographs and publications, and then show their appreciation with long-term funding (even skipping that bothersome peer review process) may have a long time to wait.

I invite members of Taxacom to join the Barcode of Life Community Network at http:connect.barcodeoflife.net where there are dozens of focused online special interest groups and discussion fora.  The taxonomists in this community are working on international taxonomic projects, discussing their fieldwork, labwork, data management and database activities, education initiatives, and practical applications of barcode-enabled taxonomy for controlling agricultural pests and disease vectors, detecting trade of endangered species, etc.  Barcoders are also actively involved in discussions of the Convention on Biological Diversity as representatives of non-commercial research where we are arguing for simplified procedures for accessing biological samples.

David Schindel, Executive Secretary
Consortium for the Barcode of Life
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Bob Mesibov
Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 2:35 AM
To: pentcheff at gmail.com
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] article on taxonomy

An excellent place to get an overview of the connections between biodiversity loss and the multitude of non-scientific issues that affect environmental management is the UN's Global Environmental Outlook. Please see the biodiversity chapter in GEO4 (2007): http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/media/

A cynic (who, me?) might argue that the main reason people want biodiversity data before making decisions is that collecting and dealing with such data is a lot easier than changing anything else, e.g. societal attitudes and market pressures. In any case, the grand agreement of the Convention on Biological Diversity to significantly slow the loss of biodiversity by 2010 was doomed to fail. In the 18 years since that binding international treaty was signed, the world's human population has increased by ca 25%.
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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