Taxonomy Australia takes flight with new website

March 19, 2019
Taxonomists estimate there may be 30,000 arachnid species in Australia, with only 20 per cent currently named. There are more than 70 named peacock spider species (Maratus spp.) with three new species named in March 2019. Image credit: © Denis Hogan

Taxonomy Australia, a new program of the Australian Academy of Science, has launched its website—with the aim of propelling taxonomy and biosystematics onto the radar of policymakers, scientists and the broader community.

Taxonomy and biosystematics are the branches of science that deal with discovering, describing and naming new species.

‘It’s a foundational science,’ said Dr Kevin Thiele, Director of Taxonomy Australia. ‘It gives us the names that we use to understand the world around us. All other biological sciences use taxonomy.’

The new program, which is overseen by an Academy steering committee, arose out of the decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics, published last year by the Academy.

Both the decadal plan and new organisation emerged from the Australian taxonomy community’s desire to raise the profile and visibility of taxonomy as a key scientific discipline.

It is estimated that as much as 70 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity remains undescribed. At the current rate, it will take 400 years to finish describing all of Australia’s species—a time frame that will likely see many species become extinct.

‘A very important first step is to try to change the positioning of taxonomy with the community and government and indeed with other sciences—to put the case it's foundational, it's really important and it's also really cool,’ Dr Thiele said.

Taxonomy Australia will function through a membership system to advocate for taxonomy, raise the profile of the discipline and empower scientists to tell their research stories.

The website offers a platform for scientists to describe their work in discovering the unknown and exploring our natural world.

The website launch coincides with Taxonomist Appreciation Day, an unofficial day to acknowledge and celebrate the important work of taxonomists around the world.

A paid subscription model of membership will be launched later this year. For now, browse the latest stories on the website, sign up to email updates and follow Taxonomy Australia on Twitter.

© 2021 Australian Academy of Science