[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Fri Oct 24 10:59:40 CDT 2014


For me, what can sometimes be really frustrating is that someone take a
picture of something that is really, really, really interesting
photogenically (as far as I am concerned). So I make contact (where
possible) and ask if they might keep an eye out in the future and collect a
specimen. The response is often 'I don't collect, I only take pictures'.
And these are people for whom identification is important, but they have no
interest in making that identification possible. Nothing intrinsically
wrong with that, just something I have to live with.

John Grehan

On Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

> Only John and Doug seem to have actually understood what I meant in my
> original email, so I will paraphrase my opinion:
> social media is not, on its own, enough to arrest the loss of amateur
> ´natural historians´ that I have seen over the last couple of decades.
>
> How this statement can be confused with criticizing scientific public
> engagement is beyond me. I think it is probably due to the confusion
> over the term ´Citizen Science´. Citizen science is older than real
> science itself. Decartes, Darwin, Newton, Einstein and many more were
> ´Citizen Scientists´, but they were called "Amateurs".
>
> Amateurs were the original scientists and much of science until the
> mid 1800´s was done by amateurs. Because science was mostly
> gratuitous, most amateurs had to have alternate sources of income and
> at least some spare time, so most amateurs were either gentlemen or
> professionals (doctors, vicars, landed gentry, etc). Afterwards
> working as a patent clerk was an option, but in general a stigma of
> elitism and flippancy (maybe some of it earnt) was attached to
> amateurs.
>
> So, as science became more complex, specialized and costly, different
> fields moved beyond the grasp of private individuals and into the
> realm of professional science, where institutions could pool resources
> to tackle increasingly complex questions. However ´natural history´
> retained a sizeable (and often preponderant) proportion of amateurs.
> These amateurs produced most of the taxon records, were the local
> "go-to person" to identify some plant or animal and often became
> authorities on their own in particular groups. These are the people
> who are disappearing fast.
>
> I have no doubt that the individuals posting pictures online are
> indeed ´biophiliacs´ and that engaging with them is positive but one
> has to wonder, why do they need to ask a curator in a Museum about a
> common insect they photographed? If you look through the images you
> will notice that the majority are common things, stuff that you can
> work to at least family with any picture guide book or that appears
> several times (and has been identified already) in the same site. Its
> like if an amateur astronomer sent posted a picture of the moon or
> mars asking to have it identified. Or a birdwatcher a picture of a
> starling. I think that BowerBird, ProjectNoah etc are just the symptom
> that many people love nature, but they don´t really want to go any
> deeper than labelling pictures.
>
> Best
>
> Jason
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