Submitted to: Comparative Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 30, 2001
Publication Date: July 20, 2002
Citation: HOBERG, E.P. FOUNDATIONS FOR AN INTEGRATIVE PARASITOLOGY: COLLECTIONS, ARCHIVES AND BIODIVERSITY INFORMATICS. COMPARATIVE PARASITOLOGY. 2002.
Interpretive Summary: Systematics and specimens-based collections in parasitology have been the foundation for all that has been accomplished in this discipline. An essential role is served by this systematics infrastructure in collecting, preparing, analyzing and disseminating information about the specimens that represent species, document a range of complex biological associations from msymbioses to parasitism, and form the tapestry and the myriad facets of biodiversity. in this arena, the Agricultural Research Service has been the home for mission oriented and problem solving research on parasites and pathogens that directly or indirectly threaten animal health, food safety and the environment. Over the past century, the US National Parasite Collection (USNPC) has served an essential and dual role for science and society in providing both a foundation of knowledge about the host and geographic distribution of parasites and in contributing to the resolution of a number of real world problems facing the farm and industrial production of food animals, food safety, and protection of the environment. Parasitologists in the ARS and others working in veterinary, medical and wildlife parasitology have access to the necessary specimens and database to conduct studies on the identification, classification and distribution of parasitic helminths and protozoans. The USNPC is the largest collection in the world and a logical course for growth and relevancy is in building the infrastructure for biodiversity bioinformatics with museum staff serving as "curators of information" where a series of interrelated data frameworks within and among museums collectively summarize our base of knowledge in a synergistic manner. The health of parasitology is inextricably linked to the health and continuity of systematics and collec.
Systematics and our specimens-based collections are the foundation for all that has been accomplished in parasitology, and has been the basis for resolution of a substantial number of real-world problems in human and animal health and theoretical issues. Comparative phylogenetic approaches in their infancy only 20 years ago, have now become the standard. Yet with this impressive array of contributions and tools, and growing interes in parasitology at all levels of society our future does not seem assured. We are at a crossroads and the need for introspection about the health and continuity of our discipline is apparent. Parasitology remains the most integrative of the biological disciplines, and can serve as the integrative core of biodiversity programs at local, regional and global scales. Parasitologists can choose to build on the nexus between biodiversity studies and parasitology and concurrently construct a necessary infrastructure that enhances the impact of museum collections, and affords expansion of opportunities for future generations of systematists and taxonomists. Of course this is not the only future for parasitology, but one significant cornerstone that emphasizes our classical contributions while building a modern and cutting edge tool kit for exploration and discovery. The US National Parasite Collection is a critical foundation for applied agricultural research and is an essential element for substantial information systems necessary to examine the history and structure of the biosphere and the interface of agricultural and natural systems.