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  [Aroid-l] Alocasia zebrina reticulata
From: botanist at malesiana.com (Peter Boyce) on 2008.07.16 at 01:11:41(18163)
Dear Leland,

Well, where I live unless there is a change in education policy to imbue those few (and it is FEW) students with some botanical aptitude, to gain knowledge of the basic building blocks of botany, notably comparative morphology ecology & geomorphology, the spectre of no wide-experience field botanists, already a fact in many parts of Asia, will become a region-wide problem. In fact the whole of taxonomy, let alone systematics, is in danger of slipping off the curriculum in universities throughout the region such that only the minute hard-core (essentially botanically hard-wired) folks will make it through and continue. The problem then will be that there are increasingly fewer jobs that call for taxonomic expertise such that those few that wish to remain in the field usually end up earning a living doing something at the best only tangentially associated with their passion. Of course the irony is that there has never been a greater need for taxonomic expertise in order to make the rational decisions require
d to protect the remaining tropical habitats.

Curiously, I am not anywhere near as doubtful or indeed pessimistic about the increasing use of molecular data and also don't altogether agree with the total genome argument. Regarding the function of various parts of the molecular code, in recent years there has been made enormous strides in understanding what various coding regions 'do' such that the link with this and evo-devo is now a well established area of scientific exploration. Of course some of these areas are ferociously expensive but with molecular extraction methodologies and analyses programmes increasingly simplified costs are dropping such that basic extraction and methodologies are well within the budget of even quite modest research establishments.

Regarding the usefulness of molecular data, especially vis-a-vis the ability of the molecular practitioners to actual identify the organisms they are studying, yes, I agree, that still far too many molecular research outputs are the product of lab rats without any practical field training and worse are oftentimes undertaken without or with only minimal taxonomic cross fertilization. However, that situation is fast becoming history as more and more multi-author research outputs based on sound alpha-taxonomy, with the molecular toolbox being opened only once a decent 'traditional' taxonomy is established and is testable. This is much the approach we are using, with a multi-stranded project that is investigating alpha-tax. and then phylogentics and then using the phylogenies to investigate spatial evolution, etc. We have been very fotunate to find good students who are willing to spend the necessary field time as part of their molecular-based research and as a result have a much more complete biological reserac
h toolbox.



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