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The question is even emerged in the same building of where I have been working since 2005. I dont want to try to explain why as that would just be considered as an excuses. I rather tell you what the questions are and how I suppose to answer.

Here are some of the common questions.

Why have not you just writing Flora Indonesiana instead of Flora Malesiana

That is because Malesia is a phytogeographical region where Indonesia occupies the biggest part of it. There would be more meaningful and less flawed result to (do taxonomic) work in a phytogeographical boundary than inside an area of political borders. It is a biological paper, not politics.

Why have not you finish yet after working it since 1950

One: The same reason of why Indonesia is labeled a megabiodiversity country.
Two: No one could be expected to finish resolving millions of names (names are one important part of taxonomy) created since centuries ago by a lot of people speaking of different language, under some hundred thousands of entity of only God knows how much present here in this region, within just a few decades. Remember, we work on region, not a country. When you got no one in East Timor, New Guinea, northern Borneo or other part of this region to help you with samples that is important for you to delimit the variation in a group, you might getting nowhere.
Three: Resources! Time; money; access to specimens: the general one as well as types; literatures: the most recent and antiques. Pretty classic.
User, please be patient. We are trying to do our best. What is actually the value of collection in the herbarium

You might want to ask the same question to libraries or archive institutes. If their answer could not content you, so might ours. Herbarium records plants present in places. There is a lot of information contained in a sheet of herbarium. You could even extract DNA from the specimens. That might useful in forensic, for smuggling cases perhaps. Those specimens kept in a national herbarium also are the prove whenever a nation claimed to own particular interested species such as endemics, endangered or even those that have gone extinct. There are more other values of herbarium specimens which are often discussed in scientific papers. What is exactly you are doing as a taxonomist

The work of taxonomist consist of three main activities: characterizing, naming and classifying.
The first one is pretty subjective in the way authors using terms, or describing qualitative characters such as colours, or, the most critical one, in delimiting the state of characters to be applied in a name. This subjectivity often is the reason taxonomist knows each other, labelling their colleagues with each others character in delimit species such as splitter or lumpper, also the main reason for user hate taxonomist.
The second is naming, which is also challenging. Often different authors described and named the same plant. They were unaware of this overlaps. This was happening because there were just too many variations and people who work to compile what people have done was (and still) quite limited and was likely not cover everything. Also, there is a code in naming, the international code of botanical nomenclatures. That is a set of sort of regulation in naming plant species or other level of taxa. Whenever a name does not accord with the rules, it wouldnt be consider valid or recognized. So before you apply a name, you must list and examine dozens (or maybe over a hundred) names whether they are valid according to the rule. Actually, there are more things to be done just in a case of finding the status of a name, with its (often hidden and untraceable) type specimens.
The third is grouping the entities under their higher level, putting them in line with their immediate cousins, and then with the more distant relatives, etc. Just like drawing the family/pedigree tree. Why is this necessary Because, classification makes us (human) easier to understand the relationship of billions of variation present on earth.

Is that helping Or puzzling you even more...
Why is your work important

We human using plants, right And we are trying to communicate with each other about what plant youre using for a certain purposes, right And there are more plants that is left unused out there in the wild, agree Now, what cross your mind whenever we want to share about this if we have no clue that we are talking the same thing
Names! With its description, thats the importance. And then because there are so many names (with their descriptions) that applied to a lot of variation, we need to classify them. At least, whenever we disagree to some extent, we understand that both are talking the same thing.
Why you keep changing names That is really annoying!

Sorry about that, but that one could not be avoided. We delimit species based on information. Now you: chemist, ecologist, physiologist, zoologist, or who ever you are, adding more (scientific) information about some particular plant, that would caused the concept of a variation changed.
So what were doing just like every one does, progressing. Just like mobile phone or cars, they keep releasing new type of products with better performance as demanded by consumer. We do the same thing (well, sort of).

I think there are more Indonesian issues regarding the work of taxonomist. However, I need the reader to help me further elaborating the topic.
Is there any other questions

Indonesian version of this light Q&A would be available upon request.

about author

Wita Wardani S.Si., M.Sc.


Pusat Penelitian Biologi

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