US National Arboretum


Current Exhibits

Systematics: The Invisible Safety Net for Food Security and the Environment

The US National Arboretum's systematics collection is one of many in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that collectively contain millions of samples of plants, insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms. The various collections are used each day by scientists who work in the field of systematics, also known as taxonomy.

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Systematics Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., serve as a link between the biological collections and scientists, academics, government agents, private citizens and other users. With its partner, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, ARS helps maintain hundreds of collections of thousands of insect species from all corners of the world.

Systematics is the science of classifying and identifying species, which provides a formal nomenclature system--the task of assigning a name to a species--and allows systematists to identify, describe and organize these myriad living things. It is central to the study of the diversity of life on Earth and of the relationships among all of the planet's organisms.

Names provide the key to organizing and storing all of the data accumulated about a living organism. An agreed-upon name is critical among scientists, especially when dealing with new pests or diseases.

More than a million distinct species of animals, plants and microbes have thus far been discovered, scientifically described and named. But scientists believe that this likely represents only five to 10 percent of the total number of species inhabiting the Earth.

The exhibit included interpretive panels and display cases with a sampling of specimens from the National Collection of Insects, the U.S. National Fungus Collection, and the USDA Nematode Collection. Since you missed the actual exhibit - A small representative sample of those panels are shown below.

The exhibit was presented by the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the National Arboretum with the following contributors: the U.S. National Arboretum's Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, Plant Sciences Institute, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory, Nematology Laboratory, and the U.S. National Parasite Collection.

The exhibit was produced by the ARS Information Staff.

Click on any image below for a larger picture (which are 757x1000 pixels; file size ~100kb).
Click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Click here for a new window with a PDF file (5.25MB) containing all 12 panels shown below.
panel 9

Click here to return to the Exhibits Page.

 Back to the Arboretum Home Page
Arboretum Information || Events & Education || Gardens & Horticulture || Research Activities
Support the Arboretum || New Plant Introductions || USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map || Comments
Search Our Site

Last Updated   February 4, 2005 2:44 PM