Taxonomy 2028 Challenge: No net loss of FTE dedicated taxonomists

Posted on behalf of Dr Glenn Moore, Curator of Fishes, Department of Aquatic Zoology, Western Australian Museum

  1. By 2028 we will have no net loss of FTE dedicated taxonomists Australia-wide
  2. This will result in  security of taxonomic capacity and prevent the ‘brain drain’.
  3. This matters because there has been a well-documented global decline in dedicated taxonomists over the past few decades (eg Boero 2010; Disney 1998; Drew 2011).  This is despite the increasing need to understand the basic units of environmental, ecological, climate change and related research.  While much of the Decadal Plan is focussed on raising awareness of the role of taxonomy and its obvious importance to all fields of biological research, we also need to draw a line in the sand and stop any further reductions in taxonomic capacity in Australia.  We argue, with good reason, for increased staffing, training and students in the field, but this relies on increased funding.  The first step is to stop the decline, which already operates within funded models (at least to some degree).  Capacity needs to increase by 2028, but at the very least we must ensure it doesn’t decrease!
  4. Resources to achieve this will be recognition of the role of taxonomy, support from administrators, funding

Boero, F. (2010). The Study of Species in the Era of Biodiversity: A Tale of Stupidity. Diversity 2: 115.
Disney, H. (1998). Rescue plan needed for taxonomy. Nature394(6689), 120.
Drew, L. W. (2011). Are We Losing the Science of Taxonomy? As need grows, numbers and training are failing to keep up. BioScience61(12), 942-946.

9 responses
I like this idea but I think we should ask for a bit more to reinforce just how much life we still need to describe and identify in Australia. So instead of maintain, I might ask for 20% more and expect to achieve 10%?
I reckon I'd go for more still. Brazil has three times the number of plant taxonomists as Australia, and it doesn't have three times the flora, or a GDP three times greater. I reckon we should aim high for the decadal plan.
I think this idea is crucial, and if we can aim for a higher number of taxonomists for the decadal plan, it may encourage new taxonomists in the field, provide more opportunities, and retain professionals which add greatly to our knowledge of biodiversity
In order to have more taxonomists, we will need to ensure that the relevant skills, training and knowledge are offered as part of undergraduate degrees. Subjects such as whole-organismal biology and diversity have been deemed nonviable and discontinued in many universities. (more on this will hopefully be discussed at the Brisbane session).
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