Recovery plan for the endangered taxonomy profession

David Pearson, Andrew L. Hamilton, Terry L. Erwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The worldwide decline in taxonomists has a broad impact on biology and society. Learning from general historical patterns of science and understanding social changes caused by growing economies, we propose changes in priorities for training taxonomists to reverse these losses. Academically trained professionals, parataxonomists (local assistants trained by professional biologists), youths educated with an emphasis on natural history, and self-supported expert amateurs are the major sources of taxonomists. Recruiting effort from each category is best determined by public attitudes toward education, as well as the availability of discretionary funds and leisure time. Instead of concentrating on descriptions of species and narrow studies of morphology and DNA, the duties of the few professional taxonomists of the future also will be to use cyberspace and a wide range of skills to recruit, train, and provide direction for expert amateurs, young students, parataxonomists, the general public, and governments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-63
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • amateur
  • parataxonomist
  • per capita gross domestic product
  • pro-am
  • professional taxonomist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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