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Workshop Goals

  • Identify the major research questions that must be addressed with knowledge resulting from taxonomic research and natural history collections.

  • Identify important societal benefits that accrue from taxonomic research and natural history collections.

  • Produce a 10-year vision for taxonomy and natural history collections, and develop a plan to meet the priorities of that vision.

  • Communicate the results and recommendations of the workshop participants to scientists, administrators, and policy makers.

  • Consider the utility of an ad-hoc overarching umbrella organization in providing an effective voice for the taxonomic community and in facilitating and monitoring progress on recommendations made by participants of this workshop.

Why this Workshop is Necessary

Although thousands of taxonomists belong to taxon-focused societies, and many work at institutions with natural history collections, they have had little influence in setting the national research agenda. Throughout the U.S., natural history collections are being forced to scale back their programs or, in extreme cases, close their doors. Some of these cuts are attributable to fiscal crises, but others appear to be the result of administrators moving away from natural history and organismal biology toward molecular biology. This is happening in spite of the conclusions of several important and widely circulated reports that the results of systematic research are fundamental to addressing many scientific and societal needs, including the development of strategies for countering the loss of biodiversity.

It is incumbent upon organismal biologists, and systematists in particular, to present an effective front to explain the value of taxonomy and biological collections in documenting the history and health of the planet and in protecting and managing biological resources. Little time remains for the documentation of biodiversity, and taxonomy and natural history collections remain the core resources for accomplishing this extremely important task.

Photo by Jeff Gage