Our Discovery Mission

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to discover and document all remaining Australian species of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms ... in a generation.

Part 3 - Whiteboards

Part 3 of this process will comprise a 'whiteboard' brainstorming session, to generate ideas to feed into the roundtable breakouts of Part 4. The issues listed below will form the basis for the roundtables. This section is your opportunity to put ideas onto the tables.

Please ask yourself 'What would most help me in my work' for each of the issues listed below, and add your ideas to the mix, then click the 'Add to whiteboard' button at the end.

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Roundtable 1: What field campaigns are we likely to need to support our mission?

Many un-named species are already represented in our collections, but others will not be, or still need more specimens. This roundtable will consider issues around field work, including:

  • Do we need to plan a field work campaign as part of this mission, or will field work be conducted on an as-needs basis?

  • What role could there be for the public and citizen science in field collecting?

  • If field work needs to be ramped up, should this happen early or late in the mission?

  • What types of support structures and programs should we build to support field collecting for our mission?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 2: How can we most effectively use morphology for our mission?

Morphology obviously has a long history in species delimitation and discovery, but is being challenged now by DNA sequencing as a primary tool in some taxonomic groups. Some taxonomists support morphological-only taxonomy while other support DNA-only taxonomy. This roundtable will consider issues around morphology, including:

  • Why exactly does morphology remain important in this age of genetics and genomics?

  • Are we able to identify any taxonomic groups where we can say that morphology basically doesn't matter?

  • How can we improve the capture, handling and use of morphological (trait) information in the service of our mission?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 3: How do we most effectively use DNA sequencing for rapid and robust species delimitation?

DNA sequencing will clearly play an important role in this mission - indeed, the mission would be impossible without it. Currently, some taxonomists have access to sequencing facilities while others do not, and some are skilled in all aspects of sequencing, bioinformatics and phylogenetics while others are not. This roundtable will consider issues around sequencing, including:

  • How can we ensure that sequencing speeds up, rather than slows down, species discovery and delimitation?

  • Should sequencing and bioinformatics support be more centralised or more dispersed than at present? 

  • Should all taxonomists be trained in every step along the sequencing->bioinfoirmatics->phylogeny->species delimitation pipeline, or should we specialise more?

  • How do we best balance the roles of short, cheap, universal sequences (barcodes) versus longer, more expensive but more informative sequences (up to and including complete genomes)?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 4: How can we most effectively use phylogenetics for our species discovery mission?

Phylogenetics and species delimitation are becoming more and more closely integrated. Placing specimens of a potentially new species into a phylogeny is a great start in any taxonomic project. However, for this to be maximally effective for an all-species mission such as we envisage, we really need a phylogeny of all known species. This roundtable will consider issues around phylogenetics and species discovery, including:

  • Is a phylogeny that includes all Australian species achievable in the medium term?

  • How would we best go about constructing such a phylogeny?

  • What systems would we need to have in place to manage a comprehensive phylogeny and allow it to be used effectively for species discovery and delimitation?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 5: What informatics structures, processes and programs do we need to support our mission?

Taxonomy and informatics are no longer separable. Almost all traxonomists now use a wide range of informatics tools in their day-to-day work, including online taxonomic checklists and nomenclators such as are provided by ABRS, occurrence records in the ALA and GBIF, online repositories of type images and information, and online sequence repsoitories and analysis tools. This workshop will examine the informatics toolkit available to taxonomists and ask the questions:

  • What more do we need?

  • Are our exisitng tools comprehensive enough, and integrated enough?

  • What's the next big thing we need to be aware of (or perhaps build)?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 6: What new technologies (other than genetics and genomics) will we need to deploy for our mission?

New technologies are available now that can help in our mission, including machine learning, high-end imaging, supercomputing and more. This roundtable will consider issues around new technologies, including:

  • How exactly could machine learning be used in species discovery, delimitation and documentation?

  • What support structures do we need to be able to effectively use new imaging technologies?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 7: What can (and should) change in current practice to enable our mission?

Taxonomy has a rich history and tradition. A downside of this is that some practices that may once have been strengths may now be weaknesses. This roundtable will critically examine all aspects of current taxonomic business-as-usual and try to identify those practices that remain valuable and those that we should consider changing to help with this mission. Issues examined will include:

  • Is the traditional taxonomic revision fit-for-purpose for an all-species mission?

  • What publication practices serve us well and which do not?


Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 8: What role can citizen science play in our mission?

Citizen science is increasingly important and popular, for a range of reasons. Many programs use citizen scientists to record aspects of biodiversity, usually observation records and images. But while these have some relevance to taxonomy (by adding new observations for known species, and occasionally serendipitously finding new species), on the whole they are fairly peripheral to taxonomy per se. This roundtable will consider issues around citizen science and taxonomy, including:

  • Can we make better use of citizen science for species discovery, delimitation and documentation, and if so, how?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 9: How can we best build the required workforce for our mission?

Taxonomy clearly needs skilled people (at least until AI puts us all out of a job and we can go on a permanent field trip or holiday). And this mission clearly needs more skilled people than we have at present. This roundtable will consider issues around the taxonomic workforce, including:

  • What type of workforce will we need over the 25 years if this mission?

  • How will we train and build this workforce?

  • What important skills are currently in shortest supply, and how will we redress this?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

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Roundtable 10: Collections

There will be many implications of an accelerated species discovery mission for biodiversity collections - think of all the extra specimens collected in the field, loans and exchanges, management of DNA vouchers, samples and sequences, and management of collection databases and information systems. This roundtable will explore these issues, including:

  • How will collections cope with a significantly expanded role and workload?

  • Could some aspects of current collections practices become more efficient? If so, which, and how?

  • What will a collection even look like in 20 years time?

Ideas for this roundtable ...

Cool ideas please ... what would really help you in your work? All ideas will be added to the whiteboard for the roundtable discussions.

Finally, please enter your name and meeting password (you set this when you registered for the meeting), then click 'Add to whiteboard'.

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