Tuesday, July 08, 2003

taxonomy vs. ecology

The Academy of Natural Sciences where we are doing our archival research was founded in 1812 and has strong tradition of taxonomy (classification of species) and large collections of specimins from which species were classified. I think of that as very-old-fashioned scientific research, in opposition to more modern genetic and ecological approaches. But I sat up and took notice today when I read a comment scrawled on a copy of a letter to the editor of a scientific journal. The letter pointed out that a major problem in understanding tropical ecosystems is that a significant number of the species important to the ecosystem haven't been named and described. The handwritten comment pointed out that this brought taxonomy back to central importance in modern science.

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