Re: [canberrabirds] Identification of animals and plants is an essential

To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Identification of animals and plants is an essential skill set — The Conversation
From: Con Boekel <>
Date: Mon, 29 Feb 2016 01:49:10 +0000

Interesting. But I am not sure it is a new phenomenum. When I did a
second year biogeography course at Monash a quarter of a century ago
(Kershaw, fantastic course!), and we were doing some cladistics, we went
out and sampled plots of plants as the raw material. Most of the
students in that class could not ID the plants. At all.

Anyhoo, it is not just students, IMO.
Funds for taxonomy have declined as a proportion of total science
funding for decades.
There is a dwindling band of mostly older taxonomists (many doing it for
love, post employment) who have the huge skills base and encyclopaedic
knowledge required for this sort of work.

There are some systemic reasons for this. One is the risk/reward
structure of university funding. An example is using citations to
measure 'productivity' when a taxonomist might spend a decade revising a
major group, and then publish a single book.
Typically this time period might involve five or six ministers, most of
whom are gone before the research is finished, if they even realized it
was happening at all. So kudos, cum political rewards, are few and far
There is the modern focus on genes rather than whole-of-species.
There is a major risk to our national collections now that CSIRO is
going to focus on user pays and investment return.
After all, collections do not work like that.
Finally, taxonomy does not do the 15 second sound grab or the selfie.
Taxonomy does not do infotainment. Nor can it cope with ADD, the cult of
the new, or the throw away economy.
While advances have been made in using robotic devices to record birds
it is remarkable how little real progress has been made.
It turns out that someone who has been watching birds for several
decades and takes one look at a bird whizzing past, assimilates the
jizz, and declares species 'x', still has a useful suite of competencies.

On 29/02/2016 12:18 PM, David McDonald (personal) wrote:
> Hi. I found an article that you might like: "Identification of animals
> and plants is an essential skill set" —
> David

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