[Taxacom] Coopers and cladistics

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 19:02:09 CST 2017

Below an excerpt from Ebach 2017 touching on the importance of beer for
cladistics in Australia.

Coopers and cladistics: Australians debate the debate

"In his 1991 report of the Hennig meeting, Cranston acknowledged the
‘Canberran’ “Coopers and Cladists” discussion group for reviewing this
report’ (Cranston 1991, p. 79). Even before the Hennig Society arrived in
Canberra, Australian cladists had already organized their own discussion
groups in the late 1980s. At the CSIRO Christmas party in 1987, three
entomologists – Pete Cranston, Gerry Cassis and Chris Reid – considered the
idea of a cladistics discussion group. The idea was to spread the word of
cladistics through a journal discussion group, but without the formality of
US journal clubs, such as having a presenter and audience confined to a
lecture theatre. Moreover, holding the discussion group in the neutral
territory of the Australian National University campus after hours would
mean a less formal group with plenty of social lubricant – namely Coopers,
an Australian brand of beer (Cranston pers. comm. 2014).

In January 1988, Coopers and Cladistics was founded in Canberra and has
been held fortnightly since 1988. Early members were Cranston, Reid and
Cassis as well as Don Colles (entomologist), Colin Groves (Mammalogist),
Dan Faith (ecologist), Ebbe Nielsen (entomologist), Penny Gullan
(entomologist) and Gavin Young (palaeo-ichthyologist). A year later, in
1989, the Sydney branch of Coopers and Cladistics set up by the Australian
Museum researchers Tony Gill (ichthyology), Dan Bickel (entomologist), Jim
Lowry (marine invertebrates) and Gerry Cassis (Australian Museum 1990, p.
43; Gill. Pers. comm.. 2014). Together with cladists George ‘Buz’ Wilson
(marine invertebrates) and Greg Edgecombe (palaeontologist), the Australian
Museum was later to become a hub of Australian cladistics.

The first meeting of the Sydney branch was held in the East Sydney Hotel on
Crown Street in Woolloomooloo in 1989, because it had a back room away from
the hustle and bustle of pub traffic (Fig. 4.1). More importantly, it had
the Australia ale, Coopers on tap. In attendance were Gill, Cassis and
Peter Weston, among others. Meetings involved discussion of methodological
and theoretical articles hot off the press from journals such as Cladistics
and Systematic Zoology or dissecting draft manuscripts. Students and
researchers alike attended meetings, some to vigorously debate new ideas or
to defend existing paradigms, while others came to watch the heated
debates. The Sydney chapter remained strong until the late 1990’s, but
started to die off by the early 2000s. Factors such as research staff
redundancies at the Australian Museum, as well as museum politics,
effectively killed-off the Sydney chapter (Edgecombe pers. comm. 2014).”

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