HOW THESE PAGES CAME TO BE-Page 5|
"The Future is Now"
In other words, I see opportunity. A new world is being born, a world of cheap, instant, two-way electronic communication. What this world does not incorporate it will sweep into oblivion. And I am sitting on a lot of real information--the kind of detailed, strictly taxonomic work that will never be done again, at least by professionals, and would have never been done in my lifetime on this group of insects had it not been for me. I have more information about North American Laphria s. str. than anyone else in the world, and an even greater amount of information about North American Choerades and the two related new genera. For example, in addition to describing the new groups, the material includes descriptions of the 15 new species mentioned earlier. Most of these are from eastern North America, and some are very good-sized insects.
Nor is this information so esoteric that it is essentially of no public value. Laphria s. str. and its relatives are in many ways comparable to tiger beetles, at least from the perspective of human collectors. In fact, in my estimation, they are superior. Their capture requires more skill, not to mention the fact that they are larger and more colorful. And their study is inseparably linked with an appreciation of that great resource that so characterizes North America--the expansive forest that in one form or another originally covered most of the continent, and still covers much of it today.
Further, since I went into business for myself my situation has changed. I am now incomparably freer, richer, and more settled than I was as a postdoc--eager. in other words, and better equipped than ever, to get back to work. I therefore think that I can provide a unique service for the entomological community, by offering what I have to the public through the web. The purpose of these pages is to do just that.
My hope is that the results of my work will transform this group from being a collection of vague names, unknown to entomologists in general, and of little value to anyone, into being popular insects people will take pains to collect, watch, and study, as tiger beetles and butterflies are today.
Before I leave off there are a few things I should say in the way of a postscript, about why I chose to work on taxonomy in the first place, all those years ago, and why I have stuck with it since. There are those who believe that taxonomy in itself is not a worthy field of endeavor; and that the discovery and description of animals somehow takes a back seat to their classification. But I am not of this persuasion. To me, taxonomy and systematics are by and large different but equal undertakings--the one is limited to studying the present, and concentrates on inferring interbreeding (or the lack of it) from morphology, distribution, seasonality, and perhaps ethology; the other, in contrast, focuses on the past, using (or misusing, as the case may be) a variety of data, to infer relationships between species. The only connections between the two fields, other than that they have often been pursued by the same individuals, is that both have traditionally relied on morphological characters, and that one historically preceded the other.
Having said that, I want to make it clear that I am not "stuck" on taxonomy. Far from it. My goal has always been to know one group thoroughly, as things have turned out, the Laphriini--and this means that I needed to begin with their taxonomy, and precede from there to more abstract considerations. To have done otherwise, as for example, to have began with a study of their phylogeny, would have been to grab the stick by the wrong end. It was the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, I think, that once said, that to have your head in the clouds, you needed to have your feet firmly planted on the ground. I believe that.