Principles of Taxonomy: Documenting Biodiversity (BiSc 213)
Instructors: G. Hormiga, F.C. Thompson
Number of Credits: 3
Level of instruction: graduate
A major part of the work of many, if not most, systematists involves
the description (or redescription) of taxa and the numerous tasks related to it, such
as nomenclature, cataloguing, scientific illustration, taxonomic keys, production of
monographs, etc. The advances in systematic theory over the last two decades
have resulted in a significant increase of the theoretical ground that needs to be
covered by general systematics courses, particularly those aspects related to
phylogenetic inference. This has resulted in a decrease of the coverage of more
applied aspects of systematics (usually referred as descriptive or classic
taxonomy). Nevertheless, most systematics graduate students have a major
descriptive taxonomic component in their theses and dissertations. This course
complements GW's training program in systematics. Because Principles of
Taxonomy: Documenting Biodiversity is the only course of its kind offered in the
Washington area it has the potential of attracting additional students from other
local universities through the consortium. Principles of Taxonomy: Documenting
Biodiversity is a rigorous and up-to-date treatment of those aspects of systematic
biology concerned with the description and inventory of biodiversity, just about
everything a systematist does except reconstruction of phylogenies. Some of the
topics that will be treated are: biological nomenclature and classifications,
identification and keys, taxonomic databases, scientific illustration, traditional and
electronic publication, biotic inventories, and grantsmanship.
How often is the course offered: Fall Semesters odd years.
What is the average enrollment: 8-10
How broad a student audience is served by the course: Most students are graduate
students from GWU (departments of Biology, Geology, and Anthropology), and
University of Maryland (department of Entomology); one visitor from INBio
(Costa Rica) and one visiting student from the Zoological Museum (Copenhagen)
took the course last fall (97).
Introduction and Course content; History of Taxonomy.
Scientific specimens; Natural history collections and museums;
Preservation of specimens and natural history collections; Collection management and
Biological Nomenclature (I)
Biological Nomenclature (II)
Biological Nomenclature (III)
Biological Nomenclature (IV)
Databases for taxonomy; Identification Keys; Introduction to
DELTA (Description Language for TAxonomy).
Biodiversity Symposium at National Academy of Sciences.
Taxonomic Literature; Taxonomic Tools in Botany and
Zoology; Taxonomic Publication; Electronic dissemination of taxonomic products;
Taxonomic information in the WWW.
Biodiversity inventories; Inferring species richness by sampling
and extrapolation; A case study: The Smithsonian Institution's Biological Diversity of the
Inventories and strategies for global description; Systematics
and conservation; The politics of biodiversity; Funding systematic Research.
Student Projects - Group Critique