Taxonomy is a neglected field of science, even though it is an essential building block to many disciplines and critical to understanding the functioning of natural systems – even to accessing the literature about them.
It is because it is a sub-discipline relevant to many fields, that no traditional discipline advocates on its behalf. Also, because taxonomy is a ‘pure’ science, it is commonly difficult to attribute particular economic benefits, so the practice is easily overlooked at budget time.
During late 2017, the Australian Academy of Science conducted a consultation around Australia with a view to developing a decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australasia. At the Brisbane meeting held on 3 October in the Auditorium at the Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, there was a broad support for a new digital enabling hub that would facilitate dialogue across disciplines, across institutions and across levels of government. More information on the plan is available at Taxonomy Decadal Plan.
In March 2016, members visited the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ collection of wood samples at Salisbury, Brisbane, under the supervision of curator Member Gary Hopewell M.Sc., Principal Scientist.
The guided tour of the Salisbury Forestry Research Facility included a most worthwhile presentation on the history and use of the Queensland xylaria – the only collections currently in use in Australia. All other collections have been archived or de-staffed or lost.
Mr Hopewell is seeking funding to digitise the collection, to improve its international accessibility and to secure against loss.