Workshop on taxonomy

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BY DR ANNETTE JAYA RAM

TELUK BAHANG: A joint international workshop was recently conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS) in collaboration with the National Museum of Nature and Science (NMNS), Japan and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

This 2-day workshop entitled “Collection Building and Management of Taxonomical Specimens” was conducted to highlight the importance of taxonomical studies of marine invertebrates (animals without a backbone).

According to CEMACS Director and renowned marine biologist, Professor Dato’ Dr Aileen Tan Shau Hwai, taxonomy is important to researchers as it enables them to identify the specimens collected accurately, which is an essential need for any biodiversity research.

“The specimens should be treated appropriately for further downstream studies, both in morphological and molecular works. This is the basic commitment required for taxonomical analysis,” said Aileen Tan.

She added that the specimens should also be kept in good condition at scientific institutions for the world scientific community and future references as well as for the society at large.
At the workshop, CEMACS invited experts from the renowned museum of Japan, the National Museum of Nature and Science, University of Tokyo and University of Hokkaido to share their knowledge with scientists dealing with biodiversity of marine invertebrates.

Aileen Tan said, “Many times, scientists are ‘identifying’ specimens without proper taxonomical analysis, and this will become an issue when a certain specimen was found to provide significant importance to mankind through research.”

This workshop was attended by 28 participants from ten local and foreign institutions. Local participants encompassed Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Muzium DiRaja and Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Foreign institutions that sent their representatives were Ramkhamhaeng University and Prince of Songkhla University (Thailand) and University of the Philippines Visayas (Philippines).

Facilitators invited for the workshop are experts of the field and hailed from the Benthos Group (JSPS CCore RENSEA), Japan.

The participants discussed the techniques of taxonomical specimen collection, handling and management. They were also exposed to data and database for taxonomical specimen management.

The final day of the workshop saw participants getting their hands-on practical session on the live specimens that they collected from the rocky shores of the marine centre.

They were given the opportunity to acquire basic methods on marine invertebrate collection in the field and the treatment of the samples in the laboratory as well as preservation methods and photography techniques.

Besides acquiring the techniques, tips and tricks of the trade, all who attended the workshop were encouraged to foster scientific cooperation in the marine benthos biodiversity science community.

Aileen Tan added, “This workshop was considered a success in terms of the participation, the networking and the positive feedback given by the attendees. Networks were forged, and scientific knowledge exchanged.” ― USM