John Pickering -- 20-year research goals -- March, 2006

From Fri Mar 10 19:05:41 2006
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 19:06:05 -0500
From: John Pickering <>
Subject: Pickering review -- long-term research goals


Many, many thanks for all the time you're spending on my review. Hope the following is useful:

20-year research goals

1) By 2012, I plan to finish developing Discover Life's on-line encyclopedia of life. This will include interactive tools to enable students and citizen scientists to identify and report their findings on a million species. The primary goal of the encyclopedia is NOT to provide users with information per se. Instead, I view it as a research tool that will overcome the identification impediment and allow users to reliably identify species and database their findings. Discover Life's mapping, reporting, and labelling tools will enable us to set up large, geographically extensive human networks to collect and share high-quality, vetted data across numerous projects.

2) To take advantage of the above technology, I am developing human networks and research protocols that will allow us to answer large geographical-scale ecological questions with multiple fine-grained local studies. This work involves outreach to school districts, the U.S. National Park Service, Ed Wilson's BioBlitz movement, GLOBE, Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots, professional societies, clubs, etc. While my primary interest is in the research data that schools and participating citizen scientists will collect, there is a quid pro quo between research and teaching. I will develop and test better inquiry-based curricula in return for high-quality geographically extensive student-collected data. Given today's web technology, I hope to empower all schools within a decade to partner with scientists, help study biodiversity, and learn how to do science in the process. It's not rocket science to have students discover new species and document their local biodiversity, and it sure beats teaching them to regurgitate -- a task that we should assign to Google and not students. My FRES 1020 seminar discovered a new Pheidole ant species near my house two years ago. As a showcase of global scale research, I plan to develop AntHunt --

3) My long-term insect monitoring program in Panama with Don Windsor has taken weekly samples since 1992. It has documented large increases in the abundance of Ichneumonid wasp subfamilies that feed on Lepidoptera hosts two years after each of the last two El Nino events. To see if this trend continues, or is an artifact of something other than El Nino climate cycles, we plan to sample through three years beyond the next El Nino event. Once this occurs, and I have accomplished (1) and (2) above, I intend to spend the last decade of my career sorting insects and analyzing the 20+ year time series that by then we will have collected by then.


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