BEN # 164
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No. 164 April 30, 1997
email@example.com Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
SYN-TAX 5 WORKSHOP IN ANCHORAGE ALASKA, 12-14 SEPTEMBER 1997
From: "Stephen S. Talbot" <75327.1053@CompuServe.COM>
Two years ago I met Janos Podani at the IAVS meetings in Texas
and then again last summer in Budapest. I have been very im-
pressed with his SYN-TAX 5 computing package and invited him to
come to Anchorage. It is with great pleasure that I send the
following workshop announcement for possible inclusion in BEN.
Special Three-day Workshop
12-14 September 1997
Alaska Pacific University
Exploration of Multivariate Data Structures in Biology:
How to Use the SYN-TAX Package on the Mac or PC
by Dr. Janos Podani
This three-day course will combine morning lectures with after-
noon hands-on application to teach the basic concepts and ad-
vanced features of the SYN-TAX 5.0 computing package. Par-
ticipants are encouraged to bring their own data sets.
1. Classification. Hierarchical, non-hierarchical, and fuzzy
2. Ordination. Metric and non-metric multidimensional scaling.
Principal components analysis.
3. Evaluation of classifications and ordinations. Comparisons,
consensus, meta-analysis, and Monte Carlo tests.
4. Character ranking. Rearrangement of distance and data
matrices to elucidate diagonal or block structures.
5. Pattern analysis of species assemblages using digitized
The workshop will be held at Alaska Pacific University and will
be limited to 20 participants. Cost of workshop: $200. Checks
should be made payable to "Alaska Pacific University" and sent
to: SYN-TAX Workshop, Environmental Science, Alaska Pacific
University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508.
Classes from 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:00 pm. Macintosh Power PC's
will be available in the laboratory as well as a smaller number
of DOS machines. Participants may also bring their own laptop
computers. Further information concerning the SYN-TAX package
may be found on the Web homepage (http://ramet.elte.hu/).
Podani, J. 1994. Multivariate data analysis in ecology and
systematics. A methodological guide to the SYN- YAX 5.0
package. SPB Academic Publishing bv, P.O. Box 97747, 2509 GC
The Hague, The Netherlands. ISBN 90-5103-094-0
Registration form and more information can be obtained from:
Stephen Talbot, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor
Road, Anchorage, AK 99503; phone (907) 786-3381, fax (907) 786-
3976, email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Stephen Talbot).
SACRED FUNGUS IN TRADITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE
Blanchette, R.A. 1997 Haploporus odorus: A sacred fungus in
traditional native American culture of the northern plains.
Mycologia 89: 233 - 240.
Abstract: The Indigenous Peoples of the northern American plains
used Haploporus odorus to ornament sacred robes, human scalp
necklaces and other cultural properties. The fungus was also a
component of medicine bundles and used for protection against
illness. Numerous collections, some dating to the early 1800s,
from the Blackfoot, Blood, Cree and other northern plains tribes
indicate this fungus was used widely as a component of sacred
objects and as a symbol of spiritual power. The exceedingly
fragrant anise-like scent of H. odorus sporophores appears to be
the reason this fungus was selected and revered. Collection
notes and historic photographs provide additional evidence for
the importance of this fungus in traditional Native American
culture. The significance of this fungus has remained obscure
due to misidentification of the fungus as carved cottonwood
roots, loss of information on traditional Native American cul-
ture over the last century and lack of previous ethnomycological
Robert A. Blanchette Department of Plant Pathology, University
of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.
CATALOG VERSUS CURATE - UPDATE
From: Una Smith <email@example.com> originally on
In September 1995, I posted an article on TAXACOM re cataloging
versus curating natural history collections, which started a
lively discussion. My original article is included below. It is
also archived, along with the entire thread that followed, on
http://www.keil.ukans.edu/archive/ taxacom.html. Recently, I was
asked if my views have changed over the past year and a half. In
short: no. In fact, the posted replies to my article convinced
me that the problem is far more severe than I had realized.
Here's one common scenario: a funding agency awards a grant to
build an electronic catalog for an important collection. By the
end of the grant period the money is gone but only a tiny part
of the catalog has been done. "The agency said our grant was to
cover cataloging 40,000 specimens, but they only gave us enough
money to pay for doing 1,000!"
How did this happen? The funding agency and the institution had
very different ideas of what the term "catalog" meant. The
agency expected a small amount to be spent on each specimen, but
left the particulars up to the institution; the institution
spent most of the money on a few very difficult specimens, and
nothing on the rest. This is not a good outcome for anyone,
except perhaps the one or two scientists who are most interested
in those few specimens.
Apparently, this is a common scenario. Why? I think the reason
for this is evident in some of the replies to my article back in
September 1995. Several people (dare I say, taxonomists?) stated
that curation and cataloging are (or should be) one and the
same. Cataloging can be fairly cheap and painless (especially
when done in the course of curating), but curating (especially
of important, *old* collections), is always expensive.
Why are funding agencies so willing to pay for rapid cataloging
of old collections, but not for "proper" curation? Because once
the catalog is available on the Internet, specialists anywhere
in the world will be able to locate specimens of "their" group
in that collection. It is these taxonomic specialists who will
(and should) be expected to do the extensive, detailed curation
that is so expensive. If they are like me, they will be
delighted to perform this valuable service in exchange for
access to these important, historic collections.
CATALOG VS CURATE - ORIGINAL ARTICLE
From: Una Smith <una@DOLIOLUM.BIOLOGY.YALE.EDU> originally
posted to TAXACOM, 12 September 1995
Over the past few years, I have visited numerous museums, her-
baria, and botanical gardens in the course of my research, to
look at specimens. Invariably, it seems, I also talk to
curators, collection managers, and computing system ad-
ministrators about their on-line cataloging efforts.
One theme that emerges consistently is the difficulty of finding
a good relationship between cataloging and curating. Cataloging
is the creation of data records in a consistent format on a
tangible medium. Curation is the analysis of specimens and all
pertinent data, with various goals in mind: verification of
known data, validation of that data, discovery of interesting
links or patterns among the data, determination of correct
identifications, and taxonomic and systematic treatments and
In some institutions, on-line catalogs are perceived as an end-
product, and as being (ideally) fixed. Also, there appears to be
a great deal of difference of opinion about what various funding
agencies want when they fund "cataloging" projects. Hence, there
is sometimes intense pressure on research staff to do "complete"
and "final" curatorial work on all specimens as part of the
cataloging effort, regardless of the scientific value of the
specimens or the area of expertise of the curator. It also
requires highly trained researchers to spend huge amounts of
time doing what could be done, for the most part, by a semi-
skilled clerical worker, student trainee, or volunteer. Conse-
quently, cataloging can become an excruciatingly difficult,
expensive, and slow process.
Is it practical to make curatorial work a principal element of
cataloging work, and not the other way around? Is it useful? Is
it even desirable? I think not. In fact, I think it may be
extremely detrimental to natural history research institutions
and to our science.
Comments, anyone? Because I think that many people reading
TAXACOM find themselves in exactly the sort of situation that I
describe here, and may feel hesitant to post anything that may
appear to be a criticism of their own institution, I would like
to propose the following: If you wish to post a comment on this
topic, but do not want your identity known, you may send it to
me via e-mail privately (be sure to check your headers!), and I
will post your article with a pseudonym. If you do not state
that you wish me to post your e-mail, I will hold it in stric-
BEN # 163 - ERRATUM
ALA is the official abbreviation of the University of Alaska
Herbarium in Fairbanks (not Anchorage).
Submissions, subscriptions, etc.: firstname.lastname@example.org
BEN is archived on gopher freenet.victoria.bc.ca. URL: gopher:
Also archived at http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/