The decline of Invertebrate Zoology

Geoff Read at
Tue Apr 6 21:26:02 EST 2004

Hi folks,

I'm using the original thread title to comment on the broad topic and not get 
too specific to one set of circumstances.  I have no way of knowing whether 
there is a widespread decline in the routine teaching of invertebrate 
morphology at undergraduate level, but wouldn't be surprised if this was the 
case. I'm not sure if this is going to result in a decline in interest in say 
annelids - the titular interest of this list! (gentle hint to keep on topic). 
Hopefully the postgraduate level is where students can still have their 
interest engaged by people such as Stan Rice (and the late Joseph Simon) whose 
expertise and interest lies in something to do with inverts.   

Frankly I'd prefer to be doing live animal biology but taxonomy is where I've 
ended up, partly from the necessity of having names for the interesting 
animals I found in an undergrad project (just like Jim Blake!) and in 
ecological work since. As Judy Fournier points out there is an enormous amount 
to be done in basic naming and knowing of polychaetes and making that 
information available, even in countries with a long history of marine 
research.  There are a lot of projects where someone (expertise variable) is 
passing animals through the black box of 'identification' and getting some 
sort of approx 'ids' for the current project, where, if taxonomy was also 
funded, the result could be vastly more accurate and valuable. But few care as 
long as there is 'data' to analyse. As I've said before, it is apparently 
possible to publish benthic ecology without a single species name mentioned.  

We are muddling along with relatively just a few practitioners in taxonomy - 
but worldwide there are probably far more polychaete taxonomists than a few 
decades ago - if the number of new names in publications is any guide.  I 
wonder how many can or will do polychaete biology as their paid profession for 
the long term, but each is making a contribution on the way (eg Frank Licher). 
We should also do more to make our taxonomic outputs user friendly so that 
people getting interested in inverts are not deterred by impenetrable
conventions and jargon that make it all seem the irrelevant weary left-over
from another age. 

Enough for now.


  Geoff Read < at>

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