Identifying biodiversity in Paris: Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, September 20-22, 2010
A busy time of year for all of us even nominally related to higher education and research institutions. Many institutions are back in session, projects ramp up, the weather chills, senses are sharpened. That last one was for me. For JSTOR Plant Science, there is much ado about something around here.
First, I am heading off to Paris for an important conference that speaks to the core mission of JSTOR Plant Science, the identification and classification of the world’s plant biodiversity. For those of you unfamiliar with all of this (as I was a few years back), JSTOR Plant Science and the Global Plants Initiative (GPI) was created years ago for the express purpose of creating a master plants list and plants taxonomy, a structure on which we could slot in the world’s plant biodiversity. Incredibly difficult task that we have left to the botanical experts (GPI), but we knew we could participate by offering the aggregation and the platform.
Why is this all important?
The creation of a master plants list speaks to the core organizing principles of the Convention of Biological Diversity, a landmark agreement ratified by 193 countries aimed at conservation, sustainable use, indigenous knowledge, and education.
So, JSTOR Plant Science is attempting to provide the structure on which this master register can be imposed, which then leads to scientists being allowed to do their jobs as best as they can. Once we have everything cataloged, then we can conserve it. You can’t save what you don’t know exists.
One of our longest-serving and most active Global Plants Initiative partners is the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. They have been there from the beginning, offering mounds of guidance, materials, and good cheer. So, they decided to host this conference entitled Tools for identifying biodiversity: progress and problems. It is an attempt to collect tools (technological) and knowhow (botanical expertise) to see if there aren’t opportunities for networking and collaboration on a much greater scale than is currently afoot.
This is exactly the same approach we are taking with JSTOR Plant Science;with enough tools, materials, and eyes on the problem, innovative solutions begin to appear.
According to the conference website,
The correct identification of organisms is fundamental not only for the assessment and the conservation of biodiversity, but also in agriculture, forestry, the food and pharmaceutical industries, forensic biology, and in the broad field of formal and informal education at all levels. In the last decades, important advances have taken place in the way identification is carried out, from molecular and biochemical methods of rapid identification to the development of interactive identification systems based on morpho-anatomical data.
This congress provides an overview of recent advances in this field. It stimulates integration of existing methods and systems, fosters communication amongst different research groups, and lays the foundations for integrated projects in the next decade. The congress is organised jointly by three large European projects dedicated to biodiversity and/or biological identification: KeyToNature, EDIT (European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy), and STERNA (Semantic Web-based Thematic European Reference Network Application).
We are very fond of these initiatives (as a former teacher, I love the KeyToNature approach in particular) and as a pragmatic group, we are greatly interested in collaborating towards the ends of the botanical community and for education overall.
I will be blogging (hopefully) from the event, tweeting, flickring (?) and more, so stay tuned for more. If you want the whole shebang and not all these disparate channels, consider the JSTOR Plant Science Friendfeed, a makeshift aggregation of what we are saying to the world.