The decline of Invertebrate Zoology
g.read at niwa.co.nz
Tue Apr 6 21:26:02 EST 2004
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 <g.read at niwa.co.nz>
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