The yellow-bellied sapsucker & I

I work in The University of Melbourne’s School of Botany, yet I study a range of organisms, not just plants. I’m particularly pleased when I get to work on invertebrates, because they are critical to ecosystem function on Earth, yet they are sorely under-appreciated. However, my work on invertebrates needs to be in collaboration with experts, because I have not special expertise there. One invertebrate expert I work with is the awesome Melinda Moir.

Mel publishes prolifically. On top of her work on co-extinction and the links between threatened plants and the threatened invertebrates that live on them, Mel also makes major contributions to taxonomy.

Acizzia mccarthyi

Images of Acizzia mccarthyi from the paper by Gary Taylor and Melinda Moir: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/1876312×-00002107

In a world of research that is overly infatuated with impact factors of journals, taxonomy gets it rough. Naming and classification of species provides the critical foundation of ecology and many other areas of biology, and it is particularly important for the under-appreciated invertebrates, yet the impact factors of taxonomy journals do not reflect this importance.

Well, I’m going to do my bit to help that. At the slightest opportunity I’ll do my best to cite one of her most recent papers in which, with Gary Taylor, Mel has described three new species of plant lice.

I’ll admit to a major conflict of interest here. Because, in addition to naming species in honour of Sarah Barrett (who works on threatened flora for the Western Australian government) and Lesley Hughes, a third species was named Acizzia mccarthyi.

Now, it might have been named in recognition of a prominent proboscis and loud shirts, or there might have been references to yellow-bellied sapsuckers. However, the dedication notes that the honour is for my research, and for supporting “the investigation into the coextinction of Australian insects that resulted in the discovery of this new species”. I also like the fact that Acizzia mccarthyi is described as being “atypical”, and hangs out on Acacia veronica with Acizzia veski.

Mel, thanks. It is an absolute pleasure.

Now, everyone, get out there and cite some taxonomy papers!

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About Michael McCarthy

I conduct research on environmental decision making and quantitative ecology. My teaching is mainly at post-grad level at The University of Melbourne.
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