Taxonomy in Crisis

Just a short comment, because i am short-timed lately.  I want to put a spotlight on this excellent article in wired:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/extinction-of-taxonomists/

Taxonomy as a discipline is really dying out. We spend millions of euros/dollars in the development of databases and conservation programs while the actual knowledge about how to update these databases in the future is more and more dying out. Mostly because of the horrific job perspectives due to the changes in today’s universities structure. In our scientific world nowadays only the number of grants, publications and your impact factor matters. One of the leaders from the entomological groups at Senckenberg said to me that it is a huge mistake that many scientists only rely on meta-data from species gathered in databases. He is one of the last expert in his field and during his scientific career he corrected several huge mistakes, errors and other misconception from the lepidoptera-literature available. Who will do this as he retires?  We definitely need active biodiversity research and experts!

I am researching myself on many different pollinator-species in temperate european woodlands (apoidea, syrphidae, …) and its sometimes really hard to get in contact with adequate literature. Quite often you have to rely on some observations/books from the 50s or earlier which certainly need a revision in times of molecular biology and dna barcoding. Some universities don’t even teach basic zoology knowledge anymore or how to address species in the field. I am pessimistic that this trend will change, but i really want to see a future coming where those people who research on species taxonomies are adequately honored.

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About Martin Jung

PhD researcher at the University of Sussex. Interested in nature conservation, ecology and biodiversity as well as statistics, GIS and 'big data'
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