Two articles published this month highlight the lack of taxonomists worldwide.
The January 2011 issue of the journal BioScience includes an article entitled “Recovery Plan for the Endangered Taxonomy Profession.” The article, which appears in the journal’s Professional Biologist column, proposes emphasizing the training of non-professional taxonomists, including parataxonomists, amateurs, and youths, to reverse the declining trend in professionals entering the field. The article is available with a subscription at http://www.jstor.org/pss/10.1525/bio.2011.61.1.11.
On January 19, Wired.com published an article entitled “The Mass Extinction of Scientists Who Study Species” that takes a look at the impact of the declining number of professional taxonomists. This loss of expertise could have profound impacts on our collective scientific knowledge: “The problem we face is a loss of knowledge not yet recorded in the scientific literature. In our technological efforts to concentrate our biodiversity knowledge, we may be rendering a field and body of knowledge obsolete. And in the process, we may be undermining our own efforts to protect biodiversity.” The article can be read for free at http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/extinction-of-taxonomists/.