The Responsibilities of Taxonomists, Part 2:

Gregory K. Brown and Dorothy E. Tuthill
Bromeliad Research Lab, Department of Botany,
University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071


Some years ago a paper was published in the Journal entitled Comments on the Responsibility of Taxonomists (Brown et al., 1993). That contribution was directed at other taxonomists and dealt with the need to provide supporting data when proposing name changes for species or genera within Bromeliaceae. Taxonomists and systematists have other responsibilities too, and one of great importance is effective and clear communication of what it is we do, and why to all who are interested in our work. This communication is particularly important for societies like the BSI that contain a diversity of enthusiasts ranging from the bromeliad neophyte-hobbiest, to professional horticulturalists, to the academic researcher using the newest tools and techniques to discover new biological information about bromeliads. We believe that the BSI will function best if there is good communication between the diverse members in regards to bromeliad-science. The Society has a good track record in fostering communication between the professional-science and non-science parts of the membership. This is, perhaps, most notable in the research seminar programs at recent World Conferences that have been organized by the Bromeliad Identification Center. However, a relatively small percentage of the BSI membership is able to attend these seminars.

This is the introduction to a short series of papers that will appear in the Journal designed to provide the lay-reader with clear explanations of some important philosopies, concepts, and techniques associated with modern taxonomic/systematic botany, and how these apply to bromeliads. In recent years there have been some major technique and data handling advances in plant taxonomy/systematics, and the results from these types of studies (e.g., Terry & Brown, 1996) are going to become more visible to BSI members. Some of the new research is likely to produce results that will mandate name changes for well known species, genera, perhaps even subfamilies, and it is in the best interests of the readership to have some understanding of the rationale behind such changes. Basically we hope that some of the future scientific papers, beyond the new species descriptions that we are accustomed to seeing in the Journal, will be more comprehensible to the general readership.

Over the next few issues of the Journal, this series will address topics on taxonomic units, traditional morphological character data, molecular data, and phylogenetics. Taken together, our goal is to have the series constitute a Primer for modern Bromeliaceae taxonomic and systematic work. As the series progresses, papers will be posted at the BSI website after they appear in the Journal, providing easy, long-term access to the Primer.


We thank Rachel Schmidt and Dylan Wade for comments on the manuscript. This project has received partial support from a National Science Foundation grant (DEB-0129446) to G.K.B.

Literature Cited

Brown, G. K., H. E. Luther, and W. J. Kress. 1993. Comments on the Responsibilities of Taxonomists. Journal of the Bromeliad Society 43: 154-156.

Terry, R. G., and G. K. Brown. 1996. A Study of Evolutionary Relationships in Bromeliaceae Based on Comparison of DNA Sequences from the Choloroplast Gene ndhF. Journal of the Bromeliad Society 46: 107-112, 123. [an error occurred while processing this directive]