[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

David Campbell pleuronaia at gmail.com
Thu Oct 23 06:24:52 CDT 2014

Besides the oft-repeated problems of lack of support for professional
taxonomists to do anything, including providing input to citizen science,
another difficulty is the politics.  Citizen science provides a much larger
data set than what professionals alone can do, especially when there's a
fairly large well-informed group behind it (e.g., birdwatching).  Throw out
that data, and the evidence for species declines, shifts due to climate
change, etc. becomes far weaker.

As an example of the importance of the interest level of the citizen, I was
a contact for a "send your mystery natural history photo to the museum"
type of project.  Despite being a malacologist, I could generally do well
on the insects because the pictures were generally the most conspicuous
species.  However, one person actually submitted a photo of an odd psocid
(as I recall).   I located a specialist, only to find the submitter had
also done so, and it appeared to be a living relative of one previously
known only from amber.

On Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 9:25 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>

> Ken said: Getting "professional" scientists to engage with this "new" data
> source is the next "challenge"
> Yep, that's the mountain needing moving alright!
> On http://naturewatch.org.nz , we have the occasional "professional
> scientist" (mainly botanist), but involvement is still minimal in that
> regard. In one unfortunate incident, ecologist/hymenopterist Dr. Darren
> Ward created a project on Nature Watch with no definite aims or protocols
> (which he COULD have added), and then after one year prublished this piece
> of rubbish criticising NatureWatch for having no definite aims or
> protocols, and being taxonomically and geographically biased:
> Ward, D.F. 2014: Understanding sampling and taxonomic biases recorded by
> citizen scientists. Journal of insect conservation, 18(4): 753-756. doi:
> 10.1007/s10841-014-9676-y
> I interpret this to have been a deliberate attempt to reinforce to the
> professional community the (false) idea that such "citizen science"
> projects aren't worth bothering with. Of course there is some
> taxonomic/geographical bias! Or did he expect citizen scientists to go out
> with quadrats and vacuum cleaners from north to south?? Natural history
> collections in museums and research institutions are not free of such
> biases either. I only wish entomologists here in NZ were going out there
> and revising all taxa everywhere!
> Stephen
> --------------------------------------------
> On Thu, 23/10/14, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au> wrote:
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
>  To: "JF Mate" <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>, "Taxacom" <
> taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Received: Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 2:04 PM
>  Hi Jason,
>  I totally disagree with your
>  assessment of citizen science being on the decline and that
>  the efforts of citizen science can be dismissed as "
>  are taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller,
>  red, blue or yellow."
>  Here is Australia, we have a citizen science
>  website called BowerBird which is a socially interactive
>  website somewhat like the northern hemisphere equivalents of
>  Project Noah, iNaturalist and iSpot.  For me, the quality
>  of a citizen science website is whether or not the data it
>  generates is on-shared with national or international
>  biodiversity databases.
>  Let
>  me give you one BowerBird example that came in this month.
>  A citizen science person submitted an image of a
>  ladybeetle.  He had tried to identify it himself but could
>  not place the species.  In Australia, we have a wonderful
>  CSIRO website displaying all known extant Australian
>  ladybeetle species.  The BowerBird image did not match any
>  of the images on the diagnostic website.  So, we sent the
>  image to the BMNH ladybeetle expert who came back with the
>  statement "Back from the Dead".  The species
>  photographed was presumed to be extinct as it had not been
>  seen or recorded since 1940.  The story of this citizen
>  science find was told in one of our national newspapers:
> http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/extinct-ladybird-back-from-the-dead-20141014-115u4j.html
>  (where you can see an image of the beetle).
>  To me, the essence of science
>  is to observe and ask questions.  What better way is there
>  than to have thousands of "natural history amateur
>  eyes" documenting spatial and temporal data for the
>  Australian (swap Australia for any other country) biota.
>  BowerBird has discovered new species and helped to track
>  invasive species.  The exotic carder bee (Afranthidium
>  (Immanthidium) repetitum) was first reported in Brisbane in
>  2000.  By 2007, it had been recorded  south in Sydney but
>  since the Sydney records no further distribution extensions
>  had been recorded.  Then in February and March 2014, two
>  amateurs noticed a "strange bee" in their
>  garden.  They photographed their strange bee and posted the
>  images on BowerBird with the question "Bee ID?".
>  We bee "experts" immediately recognised it as the
>  South African carder bee and the records came from hundreds
>  of kilometres north of Brisbane and hundreds south of Sydney
>  - on the state of Victoria's border.  Australia has
>  many exotic "sleeper weeds" but they remain in
>  small numbers as they lack their effective pollinator.  The
>  spread of any exotic pollinator needs to be monitored and
>  watched for a possible explosion of a sleeper weed. It was
>  citizen science who alerted us to this alarming spread.
>  BowerBird
>  "favourites" are often created by an
>  "expert" mentoring "natural history amateur
>  eyes" .  One such case is the humble but extraordinary
>  life styled and bizarrely coloured flatworms.  Australia
>  has only one flatworm expert located in north Queensland.
>  However, he has inspired many BowerBird members from around
>  Australia to roll back logs in search of these flatworms.
>  The expert identifies each flatworm image posted to
>  BowerBird but he adds stories about how the scientific name
>  was derived and about the species behaviour.  There are now
>  almost 50 BowerBird members on the Flatworm project who have
>  image captured many of Australia's flatworm species.
>  The expert has told me that for many species, the BowerBird
>  images were his first live images for many species - he
>  usually sees them as pickled individuals.  The expert has
>  also requested and been able to get these amateurs to
>  collect and send him specimens for DNA analysis.  If you
>  have never seen a flatworm or want to read something about
>  them, then I recommend the flatworm project:
> http://www.bowerbird.org.au/projects/1633/sightings
>  Finally, the Australian GBIF
>  node is ALA (Atlas of Living Australia).  BowerBird went
>  live in May 2013 and there are automatic weekly data
>  (images. Identifications, spatrila/temporal etc) uploads to
>  ALA.  Currently, there are almost 11,000 BowerBird records
>  on ALA (to see the spread of records from around Australia
>  see:
> http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=data_resource_uid:dr893#tab_mapView
>  ).  This represents about a 60% identification success
>  rate for images that you describe as "pictures of
>  "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or
>  yellow."
>  New species
>  have been nominated, new distributions have been recorded,
>  new stories have been told about the Australian fauna, new
>  friendships have been made and these new "friends"
>  now go out together on their own photographic BioBlitzes and
>  on-share their finds to BowerBird to ALA to GBIF.  I'm
>  happy with this deal !!
>  I
>  am sure these stories here can be repeated for Project Noah,
>  iNaturalist and iSpot.
>  For
>  me, citizen science is on the up not the decline.  Getting
>  "professional" scientists to engage with this
>  "new" data source is the next
>  "challenge".
>  Best  Ken
>  -----Original Message-----
>  From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
>  On Behalf Of JF Mate
>  Sent: Thursday, 23
>  October 2014 2:14 AM
>  To: Taxacom
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction &
>  Rhachistia aldabrae
>  Hi
>  Bob,
>  I agree the scale is
>  altogether different but even in densely populated areas in
>  Australia even basic invertebrate biodiversity knowledge is
>  lacking. The decline in "natural history" amateurs
>  is global and cannot be compensated by the explosion of
>  macrophotography since they (mostly) are taking pictures of
>  "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow. If
>  you don´t know what you are photographing then it is like
>  it doesn´t exist. For Europe (with some exceptions) the
>  decline may not be as damaging. The fauna is well known and
>  there are plenty of guides and keys that digital enthusiasts
>  could use. The goal here has at least been partially
>  achieved. In Australia, other than butterflies and a couple
>  of other popular groups you are out of luck.
>  Cristian. Spain is in a
>  similar (albeit not as extreme) situation to Australia. High
>  biodiversity, incomplete knowledge but a declining body of
>  amateurs (and legislation that doesn´t help either).
>  Best
>  Jason
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Dr. David Campbell
Assistant Professor, Geology
Department of Natural Sciences
Box 7270
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs NC 28017

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