Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Extinction of Taxonomists?

This topic has been covered twice already this year. As one older systematist told me, this is a long term decline, not a sharp decrease. Whether caused by change of careers to molecular biology, a decline in museum and systematics funding, or a combination of the two in addition to correlating factors of alienation from nature, the number of systematists who focus on traditional taxonomy is and has been declining for a quarter of a century or more.

My first response to such doom and gloom is "I'm not dead yet!". The numbers are declining but there are still young people interested in morphology based revisions and alpha taxonomy. My second comment is to suggest greater emphasis on decentralization of research. There's a reason I put "taxahacker" in my title box; individually driven research is the future of our field just as it was the origin. If it means a secret guild with unassuming 9-to-5 office jobs coming home to pour over specimens under the microscope in their basements, so be it. We are the oldest profession, and unless all life on this planet ceases to be there is no getting rid of us.

1 comment:

Morgan Jackson said...

Well said! The Monty Python quote is especially well deserved. Having just finished my MSc with hopes towards a career as an Diptera taxonomist, I'm not about to give up the ghost for taxonomy anytime soon!