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CAREERS IN SYSTEMATICS
When the ASPT Publicity Committee was asked to update the "Careers in Systematics" booklet that was published in 1986, it was a daunting task. The last 20 years has seen a major revolution in systematics. This is true in terms of the methods that have been used to conduct the science (DNA and computers, to name two major innovations in the field), but also in how systematics is treated and interpreted by other fields. Systematists over the last 20 years have argued the utility and value of our science in a number of disciplines such that the depth and breadth of systematics is greater than ever. Greater is a key word. Unlike many sciences that change and adapt to new methods and technology, systematics is a science that continually builds on its past without necessarily discarding older methodologies. Therefore the tools of systematics that Linnaeus employed are still as valid and important today as they were in the 18th century.
The Publicity Committee soon realized that summarizing current career options was not a task for any one person, nor even for any group of six people. Instead we needed to hear from experts in the different fields where systematics is making its mark. We brainstormed a list of disciplines and careers where plant systematists are working today and came up with a corresponding list of experts. We then asked each of them to give advice and suggestions to young scientists considering a future in systematics. We also decided that a printed version would not be as relevant anymore. The field had changed so much in 20 years, why would we expect it to slow down? Instead, we have created these web pages which we hope to continually update. As a result of this flexibility, we invite anyone who feels their discipline is not represented here to submit an essay. If we wish to train the next generation, we need to give them the tools they will need.
We are excited by the results and hope that these will be as informative to young scientists considering their future careers as they were to those of us that compiled these essays.
The ASPT Publicity Committee, November 2006 (Jim Smith, Melanie DeVore, Yin-Long Qiu, Andrea Schwarzbach, & Ken Cameron)
Systematic Biology was the first of the life sciences to explore the natural world, yet it remains vibrant with the infusion of data from molecular biology, electron microscopy, and information theory bearing witness to patterns of evolutionary change. Some Systematists lead the search for new pharmaceuticals or different genetic traits in livestock or crops, which may result in improvement in the world's condition. Other Systematists explore the tropics and the seas, while encouraging an ethic that will conserve our natural resources. All Systematists, however, are interested in understanding the diversity among organisms of the past and the living forms that populate the earth today.
Career opportunities in Systematics are varied. See the links below for descriptions of some of the opportunities available as described by scientists in the field: