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What is systematics?

It's a pleasure being here. Thank you, Terry, for that kind introduction. I want to thank the Academy and all its sponsors for inviting me to speak to my favorite kind of audience, teachers that go out and try to teach young people about the things I'm interested in, biodiversity, systematics. My talk today is going to cover a little bit about what systematics is; why inventories and collections are important. It will then move on to issues of species concepts and then we'll get into examples of how different kinds of species concepts make you look at the world differently. This is a very, very old argument - about species concepts. Then we're going to look at a number of examples that will touch on how diversity arises, how major ecosystems evolve, and then also look at single species conservation issues. Species concepts will be the conceptual glue that sort of brings all that together.

Systematics, we've used that word today, but really, there are three tasks to systematics: one is taxonomy which is really nothing more than the discovery and the description of biological diversity. Systematists go out in the field, they do systematic inventories, they bring collections back to museums and then they do comparative work. So it's the discovery and the description.


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