J Syst Evol ›› 2015, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (6): 477-488.doi: 10.1111/jse.12181

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Collections-based systematics: Opportunities and outlook for 2050

Jun Wen1*, Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond2, Marc S. Appelhans1,3, Laurence J. Dorr1, and Vicki A. Funk1   

  1. 1Department of Botany, MRC-166, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
    2UA Museum of the North and Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-6960, USA
    3Department of Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants, Albrecht-von-Haller Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Göttingen, Untere Karspüle 2, Göttingen, Germany
  • Received:2015-05-11 Online:2015-08-25 Published:2015-09-29

Abstract: Systematic biology is a discipline rooted in collections. These collections play important roles in research and conservation and are integral to our efforts to educate society about biodiversity and conservation. Collections provide an invaluable record of the distribution of organisms throughout the world and through recent and geological time, and they are the only direct documentation of the biological, physical, and cultural diversity of the planet: past, present, and future. Recent developments in bioinformatics and cyberinfrastructure are transforming systematics by opening up new opportunities and as a result major digitization efforts have increasingly made available large amounts of biodiversity data. The collections-based systematics community needs to train the next-generation of systematists with integrative skills, address grand questions about biodiversity at different scales, develop a community-wide cyberinfrastructure, effectively disseminate systematic data to biologists and the public, and proactively educate the public and policy makers on the importance of systematics and collections in the biodiversity crisis of the Anthropocene. Specifically, we call for a new global Biodiversity CyberBank, comparable to GenBank for genetic data, to be the repository of all biodiversity data, as well as a World Organization of Systematic Biology to lead major initiatives of the field. We also outline a new workflow for taxonomic monographs, which utilizes both the traditional strengths of synthesizing diverse collections-based taxonomic data and the capacity of online resources and bioinformatics tools.

Key words: Biodiversity Cyberbank, collections-based systematics, e-monograph, Systematics Agenda 2050, World Organization of Systematic Biology.

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