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Conservation Biology

Panel Discussion, continued...

GOSLINER:  One of the things that I just wanted to add to the mix is that sometimes people ask us, you've already got a specimen of that particular species in your collection, why are you collecting more specimens of that? Let me give you one illustration of that in practice and why I think that it makes a lot of sense to collect things. One of the things that we do in invertebrate zoology and geology department is make collections of marine organisms from San Francisco Bay periodically. If any of you have ever looked at what was in San Francisco Bay 30 or 40 years ago versus what is there now, if you went down to the southern part of the Bay, you would be hard pressed to find many native species at all.

Probably many of read an article on the front page of the Chronicle about five weeks ago saying that the native California oyster was rediscovered in San Francisco Bay after being absent for 130 years. I was sort of skeptical when I read that and being a curator at heart, I went into the collections and the earliest specimens of that oyster that I could find were dated back to 1900. I also found some specimens dated about 1914 and some from the 1920's, some from the 1930's, some from the 1940's, '50's. We didn't have any specimens from the '60's but there were plenty from the '70's, '80's and they are obviously there in the '90's. In fact, by having those collections, we can document the historical presence of that species and the suggestion that it has been absent for 130 years is not supported by the evidence based on our collection. I think that provides you with an illustration of the kinds of information that collections can provide to you about studying the standing biodiversity of a particular region.

One of the things I wanted to ask Charles was, we talked about how you study mammals which are certainly one of the best known groups of organisms on the planet and you have been engaged in studying mammals for a long period of time. Over the course of your studies, do you find that in the particular groups that you study, that you are getting closer and closer to knowing how many species there are and documenting all of them and describing them all or are you still continuing to find new species at the same rate or maybe even at a higher rate?


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