Cedric S Woods, PhD
BioLists (at biolists.com)*1 is a tool with the biggest ever job to do. As the BioLists System, it is designed to direct People-power to counter today’s problems brought on by the ways People are destroying the Biosphere and Life’s future. The resulting worries include repeated, but obviously hollow threats of imminent Human extinction. Nobody, including Science, knows much about that side of our future. Below, let’s did deep for hope.
The big endurance answer for all Life must acknowledge Society’s total reliance on our Environment for survival. With that goes the responsibility we have to foster our innate love of Nature to protect the Environment. But, how can affluent Society find that love again? Re-learning to love Nature and hoping she will reciprocate with us is our mission here. Close communications with Nature means using the only fully scientific link we know of - Taxonomy*. Perhaps Society will utilise this in time.
At the core of Earth’s problems is our need too see our future as being depend on a meaningful connection with Nature. Note; Society must remember that in any conflict, Nature, ultimately, always wins. It all seems so simple, as it should: having good Taxonomy means being able to make much better use of her names than People, including Ecologists and Conservation biologists do now.
In BioLists, I’ve put species scientific names in manageable files. The single most-in-use species name represent each species. The lists are minimally Classified - just four levels - Order, Family, Genus and species. These are in time-related series, the first one being for the few years leading up to year 2000. DataLists*2 are major Databases of species *Latin names for use in my about-to-be promoted BioLists System. These formatted and standardised lists of species contribute names to TaxaLists*3; these are user’s species checklists assembled from DataLists by way of users selecting menus within the BioLists program. Most valuable will be TaxaLists from local communities everywhere. Local being where Life lives as it should.
Field Identification*4 of specimens is best done by interested People with access to iNaturalist etc, illustrated books and identification keys. Communicating names is best done in the field where Conservation workers use them as names meet their real-life forms. Needing little user computer time, BioLists encourages open air Natural History. This is the training ground that leads to interest in ‘things’, and to skills in how to observe Nature.
Outdoors (with few gadgets or wheels) is where Life on Earth can be saved. BioLists will build on users’ early skills and their ongoing interests with species and names. Where names are lacking, BioLists helps by making Taxonomy as easy as possible - totally so in both its DataLists and resulting TaxaLists! All necessary Taxonomy, fully standardised, is already done! Einstein could not have asked for it to be simpler.
Taxonomy is the most fundamental and basic of all the Sciences. It is the communications link between Nature and Society. In today’s globalised and over-populated world it is critical to have functional scientific-level Taxonomy; but not as now. With only weak interest in Nature, Civilisation is crumbling. Taxonomy is the sole basis for scientific Ecology for interpreting species relationships within Communities and Ecosystems. Taxonomy standardises*5 the use of species names: this avoids confusion. Within it, Biodiversity Classification*6 makes its names predictable within lists; this makes names memorable and manageable for achieving Biodiversity Conservation and their many other purposes. Only with good scientifically sound Taxonomy and Ecology can Science help fix today’s problems with the Biosphere. Society needs this to happen globally and imminently so good Biodiversity Science must recover fast.
When not done properly*7, academic Taxonomy becomes difficult, yet few Taxonomists aim for perfection. Typically, they copy (flawed) prior uses of scientific names without checking for their long-term origins. This is how Taxonomic errors are tolerated and perpetuated; so confusion continues. In addition, the Biodiversity Sciences*8 are failing at helping fix problems with the Biosphere largely due to flawed Taxonomy producing weak Ecology and even weaker, non-scientific Conservation: In this way Science is failing to help fix problems with the Biosphere: so the problems grow. Being objectively scientific eliminates confusion.
Occasionally an overworked and underpaid Taxonomist will correct some errors. Such People - all around retirement age - are the most dedicated and driven of academics. Such are the true professionals who have faith in what they believe to be more than just important. Who else now respects and treasures Biodiversity as a sacred gift from our past? Artists perhaps, but not todays Biodiversity Scientists as with their mainstream money-grabbing managers.
For decades Taxonomy has been kept unpredictable and complicated by way of allowing errors to stay in use. A key problem lies with synonyms*9. While these persist, Taxonomy needs to sideline them; BioLists now provides overall help with this by standardising and stabilising Taxonomy. It does so simply by providing one binomial*10 for each properly described, Classified, and named species.
BioLists species DataLists*2 have a novel format: each uses one narrowly Classified sequence of in-use Taxonomic names covering common practice for a period of a few years; this is put into use from the end of that period. Nothing is critical. Nothing at the non-standardised Professional level is affected, except perhaps that Professionals will be freed up to sort out their long-standing problems, at long last.
BioLists ultimate simplicity will support People everywhere in learning about local Wildlife species to see what the individuals are doing, how they are living, and even why. Ask Nature and it can tell us much of great interest and incomparable value. That’s old-fashioned Natural History*11. But this has gone to seed in my life-time, sidelined by short-sighted, square-eyed competition for People’s time. Surely farsighted People will, with this ultimate survival task made easy, re-grow its delicate roots and shoots and let it again reconnect wayward Society and Nature.
Observing Wildlife*12 needs to be followed up by talking about what is seen, ideally while still in the field. Doing this needs species names, ideally convivial names that bind themselves to the memories. Such names are powerful. These are in the forefront of our mission to salvage Civilisation!
To the detriment of everyone and Life in general, the specialists in scientific name, Taxonomists*13, and their immediate proteges, Ecologists*14, typically avoid using Common Names. Conservation has no general system for Biodiversity names - it’s a free-for-all. Why? Why is academic Biodiversity Science avoiding tapping into the use of Common Names as a parallel source of rich information and magnificent educational opportunities? Why do academic Biodiversity Scientists seek to be exclusive? We need to know: these non-scientific ways result in damage to all Life.
To counter Science’s communication weakness, BioLists gives every species a number code, and two contrived “Common Names”; users may find a purpose for these distinctive tags. Common names are language-based and can be misleading, but, by being in use, are valuable if they can be adapted for precision communications. The only way, however it is done, is to keep the link, provided by BioLists, between Common and Latin species names.
Perhaps, as currently set up and with use of crowdsourcing, BioLists can accommodate droves of Common Names; slots are available currently in DataLists for 130 languages; Any two can work together, giving a translation service. BioLists even works with multiple Common Names for a single species in a single language! Seemingly, in BioLists I’ve invented a hybrid form of index that merges Taxonomic with Alphabetic listings. Being numbers-based, it can be a bit tricky to adapt to at first, but it has advantages. Do try it!
In contrast, academic Taxonomists have recently moved to increase the use of bland alphabetic lists even where Taxonomic ones would be of more use. Google beats that for inconvenience by now separating species and Family names on to separate Taxonomic pages. Funny that!
The height of modern Taxonomic sophistication is the Bioblitz*15. This shows the difficulties in converting Taxonomic information to produce Ecology. A single Bioblitz can take weeks to organise and more days or weeks to “tidy up” after its big event. The purpose for doing BioBlitz is not clear. The result may be better than a usual sample - but it is just one sample. To create good scientific Ecology, at least two and ideally a series of well-designed samples needs to be compared. Bioblitz or not, multiple samples are seldom ever possible today with few necessary specialist Taxonomists and these being mostly limited by teaching schedules and being city based. Bring on more numerous and more adaptable local Grassroots Conservation workers.
Today anyone can flaunt their know-nothing opinions as a nonscientific “Ecologist” and rise to academic heights. Of course there are exceptions: Ehrlich and Ceballos and some staunch colleagues stand out academically. But this team, to their credit, have long maintained their scientifically objective Ecological stance; inexplicably, unless “The Population Bomb” is mentioned, they are kept a bit apart by weak conventional Ecologists who vastly outnumber them. Conventional Biodiversity Scientists, by thinking agreeably in battalions, can be slow to learn other than simple hard facts. Science needs to accommodate genuine independent thinking; let’s just change Human Nature and survive.
Memories of Nature observations in field, woodland, water and garden can attach easily to species names and stay available to foster discussions and debates. Without the names, the observations will be lost, and Nature will retreat. But from discussions, memories will get passed on, build up and will create ideas for local Conservation. In this way, involved People will learn to take an interest in how best to manage their local Ecosystems with local interests and activities. BioLists will help make permanent species-level records (unaffected by any Professional-level Taxonomic name changes), so users can record their findings as permanent, dated TaxaLists. Each name in a TaxaList will remain unchanged in tune with the literature of its time. At the right time its succeeding TaxaLists file will record the species in independent lists that can clearly cater for any taxonomic changes. BioLists standardised Common Names will help with this.
Detailed local Biodiversity information will initiate an appreciation of Community values. For some participants this will create an automatic and catchy move towards self-sufficiency. Such interests could further stimulate a significant move away from affluence and towards equality, stability and, hopefully, eventually foster survival.
Qudsia Tahseen Taxonomy-The Crucial yet Misunderstood and Disregarded Tool for Studying Biodiversity