One Fish, Two Fish, Lungfish, Youfish: Embracing Traditional Taxonomy in a Molecular World

In today’s increasingly digitized, data-driven world, the “old ways” of doing things, especially science, are quickly abandoned in favor of newer, ostensibly better methods. One such discipline is the ancient study of taxonomy, the discovery and organization of life on Earth. New techniques like DNA sequencing are allowing taxonomists to gain insight into the tangled web of relationships between species (among the Acanthomorph fish, for example). But is the newest, shiniest toy always the best? Are we in danger of losing vital information about the world if we abandon the thousands of years of cumulative human knowledge to gather dust in basements? This thesis explores the current crossroads at which taxonomy finds itself, and offers a solution to preserve the past while diving headlong into the future.


About Lindsay Brownell

Lindsay Brownell is a native of Detroit, MI, and spent most of her childhood either digging for worms and collecting rocks or with her face buried in a book, often at the dinner table. She attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where she indulged in such nerdy activities as a twelve-hour reading/performance of John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” and Dance Dance Revolution tournaments, and graduated with a dual degree in English and Biology. After two years of working, traveling, and trying to figure out what to do with her life, she discovered MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing and never looked back. She wrote her thesis about the influence of molecular technology on the classification of species and completed a summer internship as a science writer at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. She then worked as an internal science writer and editor at Boston-based hedge fund RA Capital Management, experimented with freelancing, and is now a Science Writer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. In her spare time, she likes anything having to do with Disney, dancing, Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing, trying to learn how DSLR cameras work, roaming farmer’s markets, and watching thunderstorms from her window while listening to Beethoven sonatas. Thesis: One Fish, Two Fish, Lungfish, Youfish: Embracing Traditional Taxonomy in a Molecular World


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