Solutions in Science

4 Ways to Address the Taxonomic Crisis

By: Frank Krell, Taran Volckhausen

Our planet is home to countless different species of plants, animals and other living things. Despite the pressing need, research into the planet's biodiversity doesn't receive the attention or resources it deserves.  

Taxonomy, a branch of science dedicated to discovering, naming and classifying new species, has been in decline for several generations. Alarmingly, as biodiversity faces threats of extinction, taxonomy might share the same fate if we don't intervene. 

In a recent publication, entitled “The Silent Extinction of Species and Taxonomists—An Appeal to Science Policymakers and Legislators,” in the journal Diversity, Dr. Frank Krell, Curator of Entomology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, along with colleagues from Germany and Switzerland, delve into this taxonomic crisis, offering invaluable insights and potential solutions. 

The research team suggests a multi-pronged approach to tackle this crisis: 

  • Increase the positions available for biodiversity researchers. 
  • Reintroduce taxonomy in university curriculums. 
  • Encourage natural history museums to focus on collection-based research. 
  • Establish legal frameworks that support, rather than hinder, taxonomic research. 

Museums Play a Crucial Role: 

On a hopeful note, numerous natural history museums are taking proactive steps. By emphasizing collections-based research and either maintaining or increasing positions like curators, conservators and collection managers, these institutions are playing a pivotal role in caring for, researching and educating the public about the world’s imperiled biodiversity. 

While the taxonomic crisis is a pressing concern, with collective efforts from researchers, educational institutions, museums and policymakers, we can pave the way towards a more informed and sustainable future. 

Banner photo caption: Specimens of a new dung beetle species from Ivory Coast, West Africa, discovered by Curator of Entomology Frank Krell and his team, and soon to be published and officially named. (Photo/ Frank Krell)

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