Taxonomic Ideas

David W. Kramer kramer.8 at OSU.EDU
Wed Feb 26 19:30:20 EST 1997

Lenore and Students,
I am not currently working in the field of taxonomy but the most
interesting questions to me are 1) How will evidence from DNA change our
concepts, i.e., the boundaries of taxa? and 2) Will knowledge gained from
DNA change our definition of what is a species? a genus?  a family?  etc.
[I've been around plant biology since the mid 1950's and have seen how new
kinds of evidence (chemical taxonomy, palynology, anatomy, and now
molecular genetics) have changed not only concepts but methodology and the
training of taxonomists.]

Not so much an "idea" of taxonomy but a concern is whether we can learn
about yet undiscovered taxa before they are destroyed through habitat
destruction.  Are we training taxonomists today who are well prepared for
field work or are we putting too much emphasis on molecular studies that
might rarely take one out of the lab?  Who will slog through the rain
forest in search of the new species?  Of course, much of this hinges on a
more basic question:  How will taxonomic studies (and the training of
taxonomists) be funded if the support of government is withdrawn or
severely diminished?

I doubt that this will stimulate much discussion in your class but I didn't
want your students to think that none of us pay any attention to student
questions!  By the way, it's wise to put something in the "subject" line
because this establishes a "thread" that will generate an ongoing dialogue.

Dave Kramer

>I am teaching an introductory class in plant diversity and systematics to
>junior and senior undergraduates here at Grinnell College. At the beginning
>of the semester, I asked them to subscribe to TAXACOM to get a sense of the
>ideas workers in systematics are concerned about today.
>The thread was pretty dull for them, dealing mostly with priorities of
>publication and nomenclatural rules for which they have little background;
>so they sent a message to the list, but directed to the plant systematists,
>asking their opinion on what they regarded as the most significant,
>interesting, and important problems in plant systematics today.
>Surprisingly, to date, no replies have been forthcoming. So, on behalf of
>my class, I am asking the same question of the plant education discussion
>group. I will forward your responses to the class. (I was hoping that some
>of the ideas could serve as a basis for future class discussions). Thank
>you for your help.--Lenore Durkee
>Lenore Durkee                   durkeel at
>Department of Biology           515-269-3035 (office)
>Grinnell College                515-269-3027 (laboratory)
>P.O. 805                        515-269-4285 (FAX)
>Grinnell, Iowa 50112

Dr. David W. Kramer
Department of Plant Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
(419) 755-4344  FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 at

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