It’s taxonomist appreciation day!


Have you reminded that special person in your life exactly what they mean to you?

Research engines come up empty for the phrases “systematist appreciation day” and “taxonomist appreciation day.”

I want to declare a new holiday!

If you’re a biologist, no matter what kind of work you do, there are people in your lives that have made your work possible.

Even if you’re working on a single-species system, or are a theoretician, the discoveries and methods of systematists are the basis of your work. Long before mass sequencing or the emergence of proteomics, and other stuff like that, the foundations of bioinformatics were laid by systematists.

We need active work on taxonomy and systematics if our work is going to progress, and if we are to apply our findings. Without taxonomists, entire fields wouldn’t exist. We’d be working in darkness.

I can lay it on thicker, but you know how important systematists are. Arguing for their importance would just minimize the obviousness of their significance.

Taxonomists and systematists often work in obscurity, and some of the most painstaking projects come to fruition after long years with only a small dose of the recognition that is required.

One particular systematist has made almost everything I do possible. He chose one small piece of the planet, and decided to make it his goal to find every single ant in the place. He came mighty darn close, with well  >400 species documented.  Check this out: He didn’t just document them, but for pretty much every genus, he came up with user-friendly and easy-to-use taxonomic keys for the region. In some messy genera, in which keys are difficult, he came up with even more user-friendly ways to distinguish species among one another. Each species has its own page, with detailed notes about natural history, including where, when and how it has been collected, with lots of useful but not over-reaching speculation based on his supreme natural history mojo. This all happened in one of the most species-rich spots on the planet (if only because he documented all of the richness better than anybody else anywhere).

You wouldn’t think that one of the easiest places in the world to identify an ant to species would be a tropical rainforest, but thanks to his work, it is. For years now, he’s moved on to the rest of the tropical Americas. I’m excited for what’s next.

Jack Longino, you are the wind beneath my wings.

Get out there and #loveyourtaxonomist, even if Linneaus was a pompous jerk.

11 thoughts on “It’s taxonomist appreciation day!

  1. Thank heavens for taxonomists! There are not enough of you. For more than a year, I have been trying to identify a plant I found growing in a vacant lot in San Pedro. I believe it is a rare native plant and have had no luck yet finding a taxonomist to definitively identify it. Taxonomy of plants is a fascinating area of science! Pick up the slack, students!

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