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Shaffer, B. H., FitzSimmons, N. N., Georges, A., & Rhodin, A. G. J. (2007). Defining turtle diversity: Proceedings of a workshop on genetics, ethics, and taxonomy of tortoises and freshwater turtles. Lunenburg: Chelonian Research Foundation. 
Added by: Sarina Wunderlich (06 Jul 2014 16:17:20 UTC)
Resource type: Book
BibTeX citation key: Shaffer2007a
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Categories: General
Keywords: Schildkröten - turtles + tortoises, Systematik - taxonomy
Creators: FitzSimmons, Georges, Rhodin, Shaffer
Publisher: Chelonian Research Foundation (Lunenburg)
Views: 9/535
Views index: 24%
Popularity index: 6%
Genetics. Conservation. Genomics. Systematics. Ethics. And of course, turtles. In 2004, when one of us (HBS) had the privilege to conduct sabbatical research at the University of Canberra, we posed the simple question: Where has genetics-based research in turtles been, and where is it going in the next decade? We knew a few important pieces of the answer, and thought we could see glimmers of directions to others. With over 40% of the world’s turtle fauna IUCN Red-listed (, it was clear that conservation and management was no longer the purview of those who work on marine turtles and giant tortoises. Rather, the entire community of turtle researchers was aware of the issues, and virtually all turtle biologists were ready to work toward effective international management. It was also clear that the systematics community, which relies so heavily on genetic data to recognize species and higher taxa, had made some amazing strides forward, including one of the most effective mergers of the professional and “amateur” turtle biologists. However, these and other successes also raised a series of truly thorny issues that the community needed to tackle. How can evolutionary geneticists contribute to conservation in the most meaningful, and most efficient ways possible? When non-traditional material, like turtles in private, living collections, are used to name new species, how does one voucher those species for others to study? If museum specimens, including tissue specimens, are the foundation of research ranging from systematics to conservation to evolutionary biology, what are the “best ethical practices” when most turtle species are long-lived and threatened in the wild? In the rush of enthusiasm to bring new genetic tools to bear on traditional problems in turtle systematics, how should we best cope with the taxonomic instability that now exists, where it seems like half of the generic names we used 10 years ago have been replaced (is it Clemmys marmorata, Actinemys marmorata, or Emys marmorata)? For that matter, what are the current names in use, and why do we care so much about them anyway? It was clear to us that the time was ripe for a meeting that brought together those members of the research community who dealt with genetics and turtles to discuss these and other issues, and try to bring both clarity and guidance to the next decade of work. This decade will be a critical one for turtle conservation—according to the IUCN 2006 Red List, 137 of the 205 species that have been evaluated are in the highest categories of endangerment (Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable); depending on how one does the calculations, that implies that somewhere between 79% (137/205) and 42% (137/320) of the world’s currently recognized ca. 320 species of chelonians are in very serious trouble. Genetics can help with issues as diverse as maximizing breeding strategies in captive assurance colonies, to identifying cryptic diversity, to clarifying the phylogenetic prioritization of key taxa. We reasoned that individuals working in isolation tend to be fragmented in their approaches, whereas group consensus and collaborative efforts can lead to the most efficient use of limited human and financial resources. We also reasoned that it was critically important to include young researchers at the start of their careers, ‘seasoned’ professionals (others may refer to us with a different label), and individuals from a variety of research, teaching, government and non-government organizations, including a few leaders from groups who do not do genetics, but who contribute to the overall genetics research program through their taxonomic or conservation- oriented work. Our goal was to bring together researchers who use genes to learn about turtles, get them in a room for a week, and produce a series of papers that summarized our collective thoughts on some of the critical issues in turtle genetics, the current state of the science, and important future directions. We brought these turtle genetics experts together also with a small group of turtle-focused individuals who use primarily non-genetic methods to study and conserve turtles. The interactions and exchanges of professional opinions and perspectives benefitted both groups and helped our collective vision to grow. The papers in this monograph represent the results of that week of brainstorming, followed by months of careful writing, additional outside input and participants, peer-review and editing, and finally, publication in this comprehensive volume. It takes several elements to make a meeting of 40- plus opinionated, passionate researchers work well. The proper venue is critical, and Jim Hanken literally and figuratively opened the doors of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Harvard University) to our group. In hosting the meeting, Jim provided the ideal meeting place—the MCZ is steeped in the best traditions of excellence in turtle systematics and evolutionary biology, and has state-of-the-art meeting space that allowed us to meet, break-out, have internet access, and drink excellent espresso day and night. Having a local host that looks out for the group can transform a meeting from a chore to a pleasure. Anders Rhodin opened his home to a rowdy group of genetic cheloniophiles, and made sure that everyone was comfortable and able to work to their fullest capacity. It also takes money. The NSF provided the primary support for our meeting, with critical additional funding from the MCZ, Chelonian Research Foundation, and Conservation International. And of course, it takes a group of people who are willing to give up a week of their time to meet, brainstorm, argue, and produce a final result. That was the group effort, and it produced what we believe is, at least in part, a blueprint for the next decade.
Added by: Sarina Wunderlich  
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