USGS data - Shuey-etc.

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at
Tue Jan 30 17:29:18 EST 2001

Firstly it (the USGS site) should stop pretending that it deals with
butterflies of north america. I complained about this title which is still
there. subsequently a little qualifier was added to point out that it deals
with part of the USA and part of Mexico. Much as I enjoy the site as a
convenient quick reference tool; the folks who run this site really do need
to look at some of the taxonomy as pointed out by Ron.  I gag and laugh
every time I see the treatment of Colias occidentalis. With no apologies to
anyone who might get offended - the Coenonympha 'tullia' taxonomy is indeed
taxonomy by rank speculation :-) Another substantial improvement that could
be made is to add more photos of spread specimens so that identifying
features can be better seen.  Given the tremendous variation at the
subspecies level in some nominal species (which may be more than one
species); it would also be good to provide locational data for any
illustrated butterflies so that people are not accidently mislead into
thinking that the particular insect looks the same throughout its range.
this is a large undertaking and I commend those who have been involved; but
like anything created by mere humans, is open to constant improvement and
should be continually improved. Nothing much is accomplished by thinking we
have accomplished all that needs to be accomplished :-)
-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Gatrelle [mailto:gatrelle at]
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 1:51 PM
To: Leps-l
Subject: Re: USGS data - Shuey-etc.
Let's regroup a bit.   John Shuey is a long term very experienced field
lepidopterist. Thus, his remarks on USGS - which is very basic in its
information - and limited in its function - contains little or "zero" that
_John_ needs to consult (as an individual or a professional). John was not
saying (nor I am) that USGS is worthless. I am not interested in throwing
the baby out with the bath water.
USGS has several important functions. They are however, as John accurately
put it, on the "public" = amateur level. We all start somewhere with leps
and I wish there had been www. and USGS when I started back in Iowa in
1953. So I am glad it exists. I want to keep the baby. But I also have two
basic complaints.
First, USGS has a responsibility for accuracy. In far to many cases its
taxonomy is off. Second, it should clearly state that
it is not a taxonomic ruling body and its list is far from any official,
ultimate, or definitive last word on what is and what is not a species. (It
could also make reference to subspecies so that beginners become aware of
them and their scientific evolutionary importance.)
Now, USGS can technically say that it does not claim such clout -which is
absolutely true. However, it does not deny it either. It is not necessarily
USGS fault that many in the "public" view it as the last word - but the
natural response to any US Government leps list is that it IS official.
Solution. An obvious disclaimer should be posted on USGS pages stating that
its lists and records are not official scientific data.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Quinn" <Mike.Quinn at>
To: "'John Shuey'" <jshuey at>
Cc: "Leps-L (E-mail)" <LEPS-L at>
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 11:26 AM
Subject: RE: Papilio joanae - Heritage/TNC/ABI vs. USGS data
> Dear Dr. Shuey,
> I was a bit surprised to read your somewhat dismissive comments of the
> and veracity of the USGS data especially considering Dr. Opler is the
> author of half the references cited for the ABI data! Personally I
> consult the USGS site. There are exceedingly few on-line options for
> county-level invertebrate distribution data (or in Heritage parlance:
> "Element of Occurrence" data). Perhaps you folks up in Illinois with
> to Illinois Natural History Survey data have more options than most other
> states. My job description mentions something about my having primary
> responsibility of all terrestrial invertebrates in the state of Texas,
> estimated number of insects alone exceeds 30,000 species. Yet, our
> literature and specimen data are rather limited to nonexistent...
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> Mike Quinn
> Invertebrate Biologist
> Wildlife Diversity Branch
> Texas Parks & Wildlife
> 3000 IH 35 South, Suite 100, Austin, Texas 78704
> Ph/Fax: 512/912-7059, -7058
> mike.quinn at
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: John Shuey [mailto:jshuey at]
> > Sent: Monday, January 29, 2001 8:27 AM
> > To: leps
> > Subject: papilio joanae - Heritage data overview
> >
> >
> >
> > Ron Gatrelle noted that the USGS web page apparently ignores P joanae
> > and that this has implications relative to conservation.  Keep in mind
> > that that web site is designed for public consumption and
> > participation,
> > and while I can't claim to understand data quality or
> > decisions, it does
> > not play much of a role in the conservation community (in fact I think
> > it probably plays zero role).
> >
> > In that line, I've downloaded the P. joanae abstract from the Heritage
> > Network ( where I
> > understand the decision process.  Essentially designed to capture
> > recognizable evolutionary units (many with no names) for selected
> > groups, this is the primary source of data for state conservation
> > programs, TNC (of course) and increasingly for EPA, US-FS, US-FWS, and
> > USGS.  Unlike the public USGS web site, data are tightly
> > screened before
> > they are entered, and the data are linked to source, site, time and
> > environmental setting.  (hence the time lag in getting data into the
> > system that can frustrate many contributors).  There are two parts to
> > the data/web site, one private (which has all the raw data) and one
> > public.  I've copied the public summary for P joanae below:
> > -
> > John Shuey
> > ________________________________________________________
> >        Comprehensive Report: Record 1 of 1 selected.
> <snip>
> >
> >  References
> >
> >       Heitzman, J. R., 1974 ["1973"] Journal of Research on the
> > Lepidoptera 12:3-7.
> >       Heitzman, J. Richard and Joan E. Heitzman, 1987. Butterflies and
> > Moths of Missouri. Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Jefferson
> >       City, MO. 385pp.
> >       Opler, P.A. (chair), J.M. Burns, J.D. LaFontaine, R.K. Robbins,
> > and F. Sperling. 1998. Scientific names of North American
> >       butterflies. Fort Collins, CO. Unpublished review draft.
> >       Opler, P.A. and V. Malikul. 1992. Eastern Butterflies (Peterson
> > Field Guide). Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
> >       Massachusetts. 396 pp. + color plates.
> >
> >
> >  The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines,
> > Restrictions on Use,
> >  and Information Disclaimer.
> >
> >  Note: Data presented in NatureServe at
> > were
> > updated to be current with the Association for Biodiversity
> >  Information's central databases as of October 31, 2000.
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