Taxonomists are the “map makers of nature”, tasked with naming new plant and animal species, but it is a dying art.
- Taxonomy is the discipline of identifying and naming newly discovered animals or plants
- There are only four bee taxonomists in Australia
- Scientists estimate there are at least 1,000 Australian bee species yet to be discovered and named
For specialties like Australian bees there are just four taxonomists left, and no one to pass on their knowledge and skills to.
Michael Batley has been a bee taxonomist for the past 20 years and a volunteer with the Australian Museum.
In that time he has named 40 new species of bees.
Among his favourites are Leioproctus glendae, Leioproctus gibber and the Euryglossula scalaris which he discovered in the Northern Territory in 2016.
“I always find something new,” Mr Batley said.
“On an average bee-chasing trip I could find up to 100 specimens in a day to analyse.
“Not all will be new, unnamed species but they could be a new record, a new place the bee has been seen, or a male or female bee that hasn’t been seen before.”