[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

JF Mate aphodiinaemate at gmail.com
Sat Oct 25 18:02:41 CDT 2014


My comments were not an attack on public engagement. Helping and
communicating with “the public” is always positive. The problem is
that we are losing the foot soldiers to a misplaced sense of
conservation, what Frank and Michael correctly identify as
“touchy-feely” political correctness pertaining nature. There are
exceptions of course, but I think it is quite generalized. An
invisible barrier has been erected between people and nature by the
very conservationists who wish to protect it. You can watch but not
touch. The underlaying logic (for lack of a better word and as
explained to me by many well meaning conservationists) is that "if
everybody took a <add taxon here> then there wouldn´t be any left..."
There is this sense that if you pick a flower you are destroying
nature but building over virgin land, spraying your garden repeatedly
or having your moggie collect the local avifauna just doesn´t
register. There is the faint whiff of hypocrisy and it is irritating
that it is used as a weapon of social pressure.


Now, I am sure there are many projects where the “public” (21st
century version of naturalists) can provide valuable input, but it
seems to be tightly focused and simple (for the public to engage in,
not the scientific validity of the project). A biodiversity equivalent
of ´Where is Wally´. These projects are started by professional
scientists wanting to ask very specific questions. They represent a
very small subset of biodiversity at any one time and each taxon must
await for the next interested scientist (which could take decades).
Before we had collections and amateur records which could wait for the
next specialist, but increasingly we don´t. No matter how good the
pictures are they are only a tiny amount of information compared with
what was collected before. Some of these records can be useful no
doubt, but it is a pyrrhic reward for losing our naturalists.


I recently had a conversation with a friend in a Museum and I asked
him his opinion regarding amateur entomological societies, not just in
Germany but particularly in the former Eastern block. I was expecting
a vibrant situation judging by the amount of work being generated over
there. Alas, his feeling was that it was aging rapidly and that many
if not most were hitting their 40´s and 50´s with little replacement.
As for C. Europe most were hitting retirement or were there already,
not unlike the situation Ken describes. I found this distressing, but
at least Europe, by and large, has a fairly well known fauna and
flora. In more biodiverse areas (i.e. Australia) the aging is
occurring before achieving the primary objective of knowing what lurks
there. Even worse, soon we will lose the ability to track population
changes for most species at the very time when we need it the most.


Why are we in this current predicament? I am not really sure. Frank
mentions increasing amounts of red tape. This is an issue certainly,
but the fact that naturalists are dropping globally means that there
must be additional factors (although getting public bodies to correct
their mistaken laws would help a good deal). Maybe it comes down to
marketing. Teaching kids that digging holes, looking under stones and
keeping stuff in jars to look at can be fascinating. That pressed
plants or pinned insects are not crimes but can be at the very least
the beginning of an intellectually absorbing passion where real
contributions to science can be made by anybody. And that it takes
breaking eggs to make an omelette. Take pictures by all means but dig
deeper.


Best

Jason

On 25 October 2014 18:56,  <Frank.Krell at dmns.org> wrote:
> Yes, from members of the nature-loving public who race with their cars into nature killing thousands of creatures on the way by doing so.
> Touchy-feely resentments have largely replaced critical thinking. A lot of education is necessary here. Very frustrating, but imperative.
>
> Frank
>
> Dr. Frank-T. Krell
> Curator of Entomology
> Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
> Chair, ICZN ZooBank Committee
> Department of Zoology
> Denver Museum of Nature & Science
> 2001 Colorado Boulevard
> Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA
> Frank.Krell at dmns.org
> Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244
> Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492
> http://www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/frank-krell
> lab page: http://www.dmns.org/krell-lab
>
>
>
> ________________________________________
> From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Mike Sadka [sadkamike at gmail.com]
> Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2014 7:28 AM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
>
> Hi John
>
>> 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.
>
> I suspect many such are people who do not like the idea of killing insects,
> so photograph them instead.
>
> These are very likely the same people that would have been assiduous insect
> collectors 50 - 100 years ago, when it was a much more popular hobby, and
> few would have questioned its ethics or impact.
>
> And even though I don't collect insects either, I know from experience that
> possession of an insect net does sometimes bring very disapproving looks
> from members of the nature-loving public!
>
> Cheerio, Mike
>
>
>
>
>
> On Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 4:59 PM, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> 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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