frank howarth future directions for taxonomy in australia

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Frank Howarth Future Directions for Taxonomy in Australia

Post on 27-Dec-2015




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  • Frank HowarthFuture Directions for Taxonomy in Australia

  • Ageing cohort of practising taxonomistsDeclining numbers of practising taxonomistsFocussed mainly on groups or families of organismsSignificantly reduced university training availableDeclining numbers of jobsLargely people dependent, requiring substantial human judgementLarger more charismatic organisms (plants and animals) much better known at species level

    Classical or morphology-based taxonomy in Australia now

  • Significant skill shortage problems in handling large inventory style projects (eg Census of Marine Life)Work and funding priorities historically focussed on completeness or filling gaps (eg in floras) and driven largely by the areas of interest of taxonomistsSignificant misalignment between taxonomic knowledge strengths and emerging problemsWidely held perception outside of the immediate taxonomy field that taxonomic problems have largely been fixed ie enough is known

    Classical or morphology-based taxonomy in Australia now contd

  • Managing some crop pests (eg aphids)Detecting and managing invasive marine organismsDetection of potential invasives (eg on islands in Torres Strait)Conservation reserve location (marine and terrestrial)Location of corridors linking conservation reserves and other wildlife rich areas

    Typical problems which require species level knowledge to solve

  • Measuring effectiveness of catchment management strategiesRehabilitating degraded landsImpacts of climate change on species distributionUnderstanding evolutionary processes

    Typical problems which require species level knowledge to solve contd

  • The current paradigm

  • The current paradigm

  • The current paradigm

  • A paradigm shift

  • A paradigm shift

  • A paradigm shift

  • Develop and populate specimen databases (access to existing knowledge)Accelerate production of master names indicesStrengthen national (eg ALA) and international (eg GBIF) methods of accessing databasesDo prioritised inventories of the key parts of the biosphereDevelop lab and field usable technology to access morphological and barcode based taxonomic information (keys, terminals, pads, comms)


  • Develop multifaceted graduate and post graduate programs that use elements of morphological taxonomy, DNA/genetic/barcodes, bioinformatics, ecology and modellingDevelop career paths by creating jobs in relevant agencies based around these skills, and by using strategies such as targeted fellowships and post-doctoral appointments to develop skills

    Recommendations 2

  • Prioritise taxonomy funding, job creation and research effort by problem, not by group (unless a particular group is a key to a problem) or solely for completeness sakeConduct constructive PR about the fact that many significant problems will require applied taxonomic knowledge to solve.Treat our existing taxonomists as living treasures and do as much as we can to utilise their skills for training and problem-solving

    Recommendations 3

  • Thank