Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Read My Lips: No New Taxonomists

An article in The Australian and elsewhere notes that Australia's biosecurity is at risk due to a dearth of taxonomic experts. The experts are desperately needed to identify invasive species and prevent them from entering the country. The Weeds CRC points out that the lack of experts needed to examine items for export could hurt Australia's economy as well. As the top botanists, entomologists, and parasitologists head towards retirement, there are few younger folks to replace them.

What is causing this shortage? It might be severe government cutbacks in hiring, or perhaps a lack of decent taxonomy programs for university students, or maybe both. All I can say is, if there are no Australians getting field experience, whether that experience is a college thesis or on-the-job training, Australia is treading a dangerous path towards the next big environmental crisis (Not that Australia is the only country that should be concerned. We've all got our own issues).

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