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Subject: Natural history specimen salvage

Natural history specimen salvage

From: Sally Shelton <sshelton>
Date: Wednesday, February 17, 1993
Check out the sidebar article on P. 30 of the March 1993 issue of
Scientific American.  It describes an article by physicist and science
fiction writer Gregory Benford, who, in last November's Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences, is advocating the flash-freezing of
samples of biota from endangered habitats.  Gregory calls the process an
"emergency salvaging operation" rather than a species inventory.
According to the SA article, "Labels on the samples would state only
their place of origin.  No effort would be made to identify or describe
the specimens.  'The main thing," he says, 'is to get the data and
process them as soon as possible.'" (WHAT data?) "Benford argues that
there are not enough taxonomists to catalogue a broad sample from the
endangered regions.  Yet nonspecialists could easily be trained to
collect and freeze specimens."

Later on, after discussing the need for DNA samples, the article quotes
Benford as saying that "at the urging of the National Science
Foundation...he plans to organize a small conference later this year to
discuss the idea."

I don't know how much clout Dr. Benford has, but I don't think he
understands either collections or sampling, not to mention data capture.
It seems to me that we need to respond professionally to this if we
don't want to be seen as a group of incipient freezer technicians.  I
support the concern over maintaining samples of biodiversity as well as
biodiversity itself, but this does not seem to me to be the way to build
up a useful and meaningful collection.  I have not yet seen the
Proceedings article.

Comments appreciated.
Sally Shelton

                  Conservation DistList Instance 6:46
                 Distributed: Friday, February 19, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-6-46-001
Received on Wednesday, 17 February, 1993

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