National Taxonomy Forum

4–5 October 2007

 

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Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Government or the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that the contents of this publication are factually correct, the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the contents, and shall not be liable for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the contents of this publication.

 

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Workshops

Atlas of Living Australia

The Atlas of Living Australia is an attempt to make current electronic biodiversity information publicly available via a single portal on the Internet. This workshop will consist of a short presentation plus a question and answer session. To be run by Dr Kevin Thiele or Cameron Slatyer, members of the ALA Management Committee.
(2 sessions, Thursday 14.00–15.00 and Friday 9.00–10.00)

Barcoding

There is currently a proposal, supported by a several institutions around the country, to establish an Australian node of the Barcode of Life. This workshop will consist of a short presentation plus a question and answer session. To be run by Dr Les Christidis, Chair of the Consortium looking into the Australian node.
(2 sessions, Thursday 15.30–16.30 and Friday 10.30–11.30)

Taxonomic priorities and research gaps

This workshop will identify high-level priorities both in terms of important taxonomic groups and groups that have lost (or are in danger of losing) taxonomic expertise in Australia. Ideas put forward at each session will be used to compile a list that will direct ABRS and national priorities over the next four years. To be run by a professional facilitator.
(4 sessions, Thur 14.00–15.00 and 15.30–16.30, Friday 9.00–10.00 and 10.30–11.30)

User needs

Conservation agencies and industries such as agriculture, fisheries and mining often expect taxonomic resources to be available to meet their demands. Such expectations could become increasingly difficult to meet over the next four years because of resource shortages. There is an urgent need to identify user priorities and needs in terms of taxonomic services so that these can be planned for. Participants in this workshop will be asked to identify priorities to inform future directions for ABRS and other institutions involved in taxonomic research. To be run by a professional facilitator.
(4 sessions, Thur 14.00–15.00 and 15.30–16.30, Friday 9.00–10.00 and 10.30–11.30)

Taxonomic impediments and resourcing

Numbers of practising taxonomists and systematists are dwindling and there are increasingly serious shortfalls in the numbers of graduate and undergraduate students able and inclined to take their place. This workshop will canvass ideas from participants for innovative potential solutions to resource issues such as the scarcity of employed taxonomists, absence of career paths and shortages in student numbers. To be run by a professional facilitator.
(4 sessions, Thur 14.00–15.00 and 15.30–16.30, Friday 9.00–10.00 and 10.30–11.30)

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Background

Australia is losing its taxonomic capacity at an alarming rate. Less than nine percent of the workforce is under 30 years of age and a large percentage of the workforce is voluntary. This issue extends across the breadth of taxonomy from biosecurity to biodiversity conservation.

There is an urgent need to review existing taxonomic resources at a national scale in the light of major gaps in research capacity and the needs of user groups such as industry and government agencies.

Users have an expectation that taxonomic services will be available when required. With the current decline at a critical point, this viewpoint is not sustainable. In future, the user community in both government and private sector will need to engage more actively with research and collection institutions in order to obtain taxonomic services.

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Objectives

The Forum offers users of taxonomic information an opportunity to place their needs on the national agenda.

The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) has responsibility for taxonomy within the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Future ABRS directions will be strongly tied to addressing the taxonomy crisis. The Forum offers research and collection institutions the opportunity to identify and prioritise research and resource needs at a national scale.

ABRS, with kind support from the Australian Museum and the Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies (FASTS), seeks to develop a national overview on taxonomy in Australia.

The National Taxonomy Forum (4–5 October 2007), held at the Australian Museum, seeks institutional representation from the research, industry and government sectors to identify the following:

  1. A national picture of institutional needs for taxonomy
    The Forum will seek to canvas users of taxonomy, notably forestry, fisheries, agricultural and mining/development sectors about their research needs. Particular questions include whether users have particular target groups — such as parasitic organisms, or particular issues, such as the conservation status of undescribed species affecting approval processes. This will enable ABRS to develop a national strategy for addressing these questions over the next four years.
  2. A national picture of taxonomic research
    The Forum will seek to establish the major gaps in taxonomic and systematics capacity at a national scale. Particular issues include taxa for which no Australian capacity exists, or for which the Australian capacity will shortly disappear entirely. This will enable ABRS to prioritise and target future funding towards addressing these gaps.
  3. Strategies for combating taxonomic decline
    The Forum will seek to identify a toolkit for establishing educational and early career pathways for future taxonomists.

Participants will also have an opportunity to participate in information sessions on an Australian response to the Barcode of Life and the Atlas of Living Australia.

Because the number of places has to be limited for the sake of practicality, we ask that institutions send along the minimum possible representation, fully briefed with their institution’s perspective on the above issues.

The Forum is structured around a two day format. The Forum is centred on a series of professionally facilitated workshops targeting the above questions. A detailed program will be forwarded in mid September, to institutions that have registered.

ABRS and FASTS intend to publish the results of the National Taxonomy Forum. ABRS will use the results of the Forum to develop a national policy on taxonomy and to develop a response strategy for recovering taxonomic capacity.

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