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.

How on Earth are we going to do this?

A key recommended strategic action in the decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australia and New Zealand 2018-2027 is for a substantial acceleration in the discovery and documentation of new species:

Strategic action 1.1 We will significantly increase the rate at which new species in Australia and New Zealand

are discovered, resolved, named and documented.

To achieve this strategic action, Taxonomy Australia and the Australian taxonomy and biosystematic sector are working, with support from the Ian Potter Foundation, the Australian Academy of Science, and a range of partner organisations, to prepare for launch a grand science mission to discover and document all remaining Australian species in a generation.

This page is about this mission, and the process of working out how on Earth we're going to do it.

Rainforest fruits, north Queensland. Image: Tapio Linderhaus


Taxonomy Australia planned to host a national meeting in Adelaide in mid-March, to explore this idea further and to develop a roadmap for its realisation. It became necessary to cancel that meeting at late notice, due to the rapidly accelerating coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the plan is to hold the national meeting online, as a series of online presentations, forums, whiteboards, workshops, roundtables and panel discussions. We hope to to achieve the same goals as the planned Adelaide meeting, without meeting face-to-face.

Click here for more background to the proposed mission. Otherwise, scroll down to become involved.

Boyd's Forest Dragon with Usnea. Photo: Tapio Linderhaus


There will be several parts to the process, aligned more or less with the proposed agenda for the cancelled three-day meeting.


Please register for the meeting at the bottom of this page, then start with the introduction in Part 1 and the presentations in Part 2. Aim to watch these before you start the next parts. They set the scene, and are designed to get you thinking. 

Part 1 is an introduction to the workshop, its context, background, intent and desired outcomes.

Part 2 will be a virtual symposium, a series of presentations addressing the challenges and opportunities for greatly accelerated taxonomy in different taxonomic groups.

Part 3 will be a whiteboarding or brainstorming exercise in preparation for Part 4, a series of online roundtable breakouts, each covering one aspect of taxonomy and our mission. Wrap-up presentations from the roundtables can be viewed here.

Part 5 will be a synthesis and identification of next steps towards the development of a detailed plan for a high-throughput taxonomic pipeline and a roadmap for how to get there.

Timelines for the process are as follows:

  1. Please try to engage with parts 1-3 (introductory presentations, and getting ideas onto the roundtables via the whiteboard) during this week (beginning 20 April 2020)

  2. The breakout roundtables (Part 4) will occupy the week beginning 27 April.

  3. The wrap-up (Part 5) will commence in the week beginning 4 May.

Nembrothia lineolata laying eggs on a sea-squirt Polycarpa aurata. Photo: By Nick Hobgood - CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4585456

This national meeting is open to anyone with an interest in taxonomy and biosystematics and the discovery, delimitation, naming and documentation of Australia's biodiversity. If you fit this description, you're welcome.


In some parts of the meeting, only practicing or retired taxonomists and taxonomy students - that is, people with a good knowledge of taxonomic and biosystematic practice - can sensibly engage. Other parts are for users and stakeholders, people who need the understanding of Australian biodiversity provided by taxonomists and biosystematists, but who do not do taxonomy themselves. Other parts may be of broader interest.

Please start by registering below. You can see a full listing of meeting participants here.




* In some parts of the meeting, such as the whiteboarding and roundtable breakouts, you will use your password to identify yourself. Please make sure you remember it.