Training a new generation for the mission
Achieving the goal of discovering and documenting all Australian species in a generation will need a new generation of highly trained, smart, technologically capable, flexible and dedicated scientists and other professionals.
These will be needed to achieve the 16-fold increase in the current rate at which new Australian species are discovered, named, classified and described. Part of this increase will come from new and enhanced technologies and new and more efficient practices in taxonomy, but part of it needs to come from a new and enhanced workforce.
There are students today, in primary and secondary schools and in universities, who are keen to pursue a career in taxonomy and biosystematics. Animals, plants, fungi and other organisms are perennially fascinating, and discovering new species and new knowledge of species relationships, evolution and lives is deeply satisfying. But there are very few jobs and even fewer career paths in taxonomy and biosystematics. This needs to be rectified if the goal of discovering and documenting all Australian species is to be achieved.
Over the last several decades, universities have responded to the lack of career paths in the biodiversity sciences by reducing teaching and the capacity for postgraduate supervision in these important disciplines. Thus, there is a combination of both supply- and demand-side challenges for training the new generation needed for the mission, and these need to be rectified together to successfully deal with this challenge.
If support for a mission to discover and document all remaining Australian species in a generation is achieved, a key component must be to revitalise the teaching of biodiversity at senior school and university levels, and training in the skills needed to use the new technologies needed for the mission. A new generation needs to develop the deep skills necessary for efficient and high-quality taxonomy, species discovery, biosystematics, evolutionary studies and the ancillary disciplines that support these.