Taxonomist Appreciation Day is coming up


pun by by @phishdoc, illlustration by @verdanteleanor.

It’s been hard to wait a whole year, I know! Taxonomist Appreciation Day is coming up, on 19 March!

I imagine museums, science departments, and libraries will have costume shows, trivia, art competitions, and potluck taxonomic salad festivals. Meanwhile, the talented scientific artists of BuzzHootRoar are running their annual taxonomy pun contest!

Here are their instructions: Continue reading

Taxonomist Appreciation Day is Thursday!


Taxonomist Appreciation Day is March 19th – this Thursday!

Among all the sciences, one of the least heralded and most critical roles is the taxonomist.

We need more funding and more jobs for taxonomy. That’s not in my power, but the very least we can do is to explicitly value taxonomists and work they do with our recognition and appreciation. Continue reading

Today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day!


Many fields of science are important, and many fields of science are appreciated.

The field with the greatest importance : appreciation ratio is taxonomy.


BuzzHootRoar made this!

Taxonomy is critical for almost everything we do in biology, but few demonstrate appreciation for the hard work and expertise that is required for useful taxonomy to happen. Let’s change that!

We are deep in a taxonomic crisis. Our own species created the planet’s sixth major extinction event and we are lacking the expertise to understand what we are rapidly losing. Taxonomic work is the foundation for understanding how to save what we can and make plans for the future. Any fix to the taxonomic crisis requires a recognition of the essential nature of the work of taxonomists and systematists, and the value of museum collections and those who use them to explain our world. We must show taxonomists how much they’re worth to us. We need to back this up with the necessary resources, of course, but we all need to be showing them a lotta love too.

I’d like to write a bit about the taxonomist that’s made my work possible.

As an ecologist, most of what I do is only possible because because of the unfathomably detailed and dedicated work of one systematist and all-around-great guy, Jack Longino. I don’t even know where to begin with the awesomeness of Jack, and of what he’s done. En route to a bevy of discoveries in evolution and ecology, he’s provided a comprehensive picture of ant biology throughout Costa Rica, as well as Mesoamerica and beyond. Of course there’s always more work to do, and a lot of that is only possible because of the foundation of his natural history and systematic work.

Jack Longino worked on the ants of La Selva Biological Station under the umbrella of the ambitious Alas Project: The Arthropods of La SelvaWhile heading up (in part) this huge project funded by a series of four NSF grants, he focused on ants. In the process, he made the most comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to identifying ants to species for anywhere in the tropics, perhaps the world. In fact, it is easier for me to train a student to identify an ant in the rainforest of Costa Rica than in my home in California, because the tools that Jack created are just so perfect to get ants to species. And when you get to a species page, you get detailed natural history notes of the biology of the species, including the rare ones. (For great examples, check out his notes on Gnamptogenys banski and one of my favorite critters, the gypsy ant Aphaenogaster araneoides.) In recent years, he’s ported over to the globally comprehensive site Antweb, and expanded his range throughout Mesoamerica and northern South America. Which is much cause for rejoicing among myrmecologists in these areas. And NPR, too.

And, a spectacular part of all this is that he did this while serving on the faculty of The Evergreen State College. I’ve seen him in the field with students on several occasions, and he’s a thoughtful, attentive, realistic and enterprising mentor. (He’s recently moved to the University of Utah.) And whenever I have questions for him, he’s prompt, detailed and doesn’t even seem to mind. I don’t know how to make a taxonomy pun out of this, but he’s 100% class.

So when he went on an expedition sampling ants throughout remote areas of Mesoamerica, he took a bunch of undergraduates. Some of whom made this wonderful animation showing what an ant sampling field expedition looks like:

Acknowledgments: This year’s pun contest by BuzzHootRoar generated some great art and new attention to the importance of taxonomy for ALL of us scientists. I came up with the idea for Taxonomist Appreciation Day on a half-whim last year, but I’m serious about it. It’s an idea whose time has come. And I am so thankful for the people who’ve helped picked up the idea and shared it, including BuzzHootRoar, the NSF Division of Environmental Biology, and Alex Wild, and hopefully many more of you today. (If you’re a twitter person, #loveyourtaxonomist is the not-so-secret handshake.) The Smithsonian Department of Invert Zoology came up with an aptly timed post (beware: contains comic sans). Next year, let’s have a bigger and better Taxonomist Appreciation Day! I’m open to all kinds of ideas, in addition to the great ones of DEBrief.

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.