Academy Colloquium

Beyond the Tree of Life: the Future of Plant Systematics

16 March 2016  -  18 March 2016
KNAW, Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29, 1011 JV Amsterdam
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Systematics is the scientific discipline that aims to discover, document and understand past and present life on earth. The field of systematics is critically important because it provides the bedrock of multiple and diverse human endeavours, spanning medicine to food production.

Since the 1980’s the availability of molecular tools has revolutionized the field and stimulated scientific output. Despite these seemingly ideal conditions for a thriving research field, systematic research struggles to maintain its prominence and relevance in biological sciences.

We believe that one of the main reasons for this paradoxical loss of momentum in the face of unprecedented availability of technology and methods is that many scientists regard the Tree of Life as reasonably well-resolved. Having found our ‘Holy Grail’, the field lacks a driving vision for the future.

Resolution of key issues such as:

  • What are the big questions for plant systematics in the 21st century?
  • How should the next generation of systematists be trained?
  • How can we emphasize the prominent role of systematics to the outside world?

is vital for our field, with implications for everyone involved in biodiversity research.


Prof. Erik F. Smets (Naturalis Biodiversity Center)