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Where have all the parasitologists gone?

Mark Siddall mes at zoo.toronto.edu
Thu Dec 15 01:22:48 EST 1994

>of our current graduate students.  It is obvious that in order to 
>obtain funding from many federal and private sources, current and 
>future researchers must have knowledge of as well as "how to" skills 
>in immunoparasitology and molecular biology.  But, I wonder, if the 

>will need a person to teach Veterinary Parasitology and to interact 
>with veterinarians in the Teaching Hospital (preferably someone with 
>a DVM and PhD), we will need a person with fundable research skills, 
>preferably a person with a background in veterinary parasitology but 
>who also has skills in immunoparasitology/molecular parasitology, and 
>thirdly, a person with administrative skills who has similar 
>attributes.  Who is teaching students with these attributes?

One could readily argue that a bias towards veterinary parasitology is
as specialized as immuno-pasitology or whatever.
I think thatevery "field" goes through this on a cyclical basis.
In addition I would suggest that it is largely up to the students (at
the grad level anyway) to retain these features or seek them out themselves.
As eduacators it is all very well and good to give broad parasitology
backgrounds to students but it also behooves us to prepare students
with skills that they will need to be successful as academics or
Take "zoology" as an example.  About a hundred years ago or so it would
have been reasonable to be trained as a consummate zoologist, knwoledgable
in all available aspects of metazoa.  This is silly today.  There
is little success to be had as a knower of all and master of none.
Thus, one needs to master something... it could be evolutionary aspects
of parasitology, or it could be biochemical things or immunological issues.
That is where the highly skilled and academic training needs to focus.
The days of the general all encompassing parasitologist are waning if not
over, if they ever really existed.
As for being able to ID parasites...if that's something that needs
doing then it should be done but it is no less a specialty than any other.
The fact is that no-one is offering jobs for 
"Parasitologist: come as you are."
As such, I don't know that there is much to be gained by training 
people to be thus.
This is not to say that there is no merit in parasitologists being
broadly interested.  I find great pleasure and satisfaction in it
myself.  I do think that this is now up to the individual.  Much like
being a "Naturalist".

Tim wrote:
<all of Dr. Prestwood's posting, quite unecessarily>
>  we have 3 of them here at East Stoudsburg Univ.  henry fremount works 
>disease, and i am concerning myself currently with cestode systematics/ 
>host-parasite co-evolution.  those people are out there with the skills 
>you've listed, but might be younger and not a 'sure bet' for continuous 
>comptetitive funding that major universities look for.  they go to work 

Which sounds more suited to bionet.jobs than bionet.parasitology :-)

>the academic field with parasitological skills GENERALLY.  for example, 
>we need people at every institution, that may have varied academic 
>interests, but who all share a common love of parasitic animals.  they 

I disagree vehemently.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for parasitology,
I just think it's a mistake to try to sell parasitologists as parasitologists
The circle has come 'round.  These are no-longer the days of H.B. Ward.
These are the 90s.  The "common love of parasites" is a noble idea but
little more than that.  There is no unifying principle about
parasite evolution (contra Adamson and Caira [1994 in Parasitology p. S85],
or ecology or whathaveyou.  The simple reason is that parasitism has been 
adopted all over the place independently.  The only unifying principle
for Parasitologists is that we think they are neat.  

>subjects, and i can definitely do 3 of them.  i love animals, and have 
>interests in ecology, evolution and systematics, and i love student 
>interaction.  i would work at georgia/athens, or any other 
>university/college that is intrigued by my abilities and interests.

More fodder for bionet.jobs Tim? :-)

>  with the 'downsizing' of acadmia writ large, perhaps the generalists 
>among us will have a leg up on the rest.

And then again maybe not.  I would reccomend being a specialist at something.
This may sound cynical but I think it's reality.  And I don't think the
"parasitology" is any longer a specialty.  Any more than "invertebrate
zoologist" is.

So much for my 2c.


Mark E. Siddall                "I don't mind a parasite...
mes at vims.edu                    I object to a cut-rate one" 
Virginia Inst. Marine Sci.                     - Rick
Gloucester Point, VA, 23062

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