|Thomas Kunze with his poster|
Outreach is important to the Catalogue of Life firstly, to disseminate the work that we do to the scientific community and the general public and secondly, as a way to seek out taxonomists working in our gap areas. Eventually we hope to complete our list of all known species on earth but to do that we need to attract more contributors. Part of this outreach activity is attendance at relevant scientific conferences. Last month Thomas Kunze attended The World Congress of Malacology. Below is an account of his trip:
The World Congress of Malacology is the largest meeting of malacologists and is held every three years around the world. Malacologists are those people working with molluscs, a phylum of invertebrate animals including significantly gastropods (e.g. snails and slugs), bivalves and cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopus and squid). After Phuket 2010 the congress was this year in Punta Delgada on San Miguel the largest island of the Azores. The Azores are a Portuguese island group in the middle of the Atlantic and are also inhabited by diverse land snails.
With almost 400 participants a good number of mollusc specialists attended this year. Beside specialists and well known researchers, there were many students attending the meeting. It is always a great occasion to meet colleagues, listen to groundbreaking talks and chat over the study object: molluscs. In previous editions the Catalogue of Life (CoL) listed only 14,277 molluscan species but in recent months the CoL editorial team has merged several (regional and global) checklists for gastropods and bivalves, and now the CoL includes a large checklist of molluscs with 41,655 species. Of course these results had to be presented on the Azores!
Besides presenting data to the worldwide community of specialists, a conference like this helps not only to exchange new ideas and views but also to search for contributors to the CoL. Although the CoL now has a large checklist of molluscs from marine and freshwater habitats, there is not a checklist for terrestrial gastropods, which with around 20,000 to 30,000 species constitute the biggest remaining gap in molluscs. So the WCM is a platform for searching out new partners who can provide terrestrial snails and slugs to the CoL.