Annual meetings trivia – Fort Lauderdale edition

Graph of meeting attendance using data from Meetings table

With this year’s annual meeting fast approaching, we thought it was time for a little meetings trivia!

  • The annual meeting has only ever been held in Florida once before: in Gainesville at the University of Florida in 1954
  • This is the first time ever the annual meeting is in Fort Lauderdale
  • The annual meeting is huge! More than 4500 people attended the recent Portland and Baltimore meetings
  • The Florida International University (located in Fort Lauderdale) GLADES club was the 2015 SEEDS chapter of the year [link]

Add your Fort Launderdale ESA related trivia in the comments and check out our committee’s sponsored sessions.

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July 2016 Bulletin Rich in History

July2016coverThe July Bulletin of the ESA offers a wealth of history-related material, collected here (along with a few republished from April) for your browsing convenience.

Resolutions honoring the memories of recently deceased ecologists:

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Robert Treat Paine, His Legacy Continues

The world of ecology is saddened today by news of the passing of Robert Paine, who died last night after an illness. Dr. Paine was president of ESA in 1979-1980; his role is captured in his reflections on his presidency, written in 2012 as part of the Past Presidents timeline project.

Here are some key articles as reminders today about Bob Paine’s contributions to ecology:

Bob Paine was interviewed for HRC’s oral history project in 2012 by Doug Sprugel, the first interview of ecologists in a series that now includes more than 20. In it, Paine discusses his early influences and his work under Fred Smith (ESA President, 1973-74), a “hands-off teacher” whose approach Bob appreciated. He talks about the “keystone species” concept he is known for, his research with Dr. Simon Levin (ESA President 1990-91), as well as the importance of ecologists being involved in policy and politics, as his student Dr. Jane Lubchenco (ESA President, 1992-93) later admirably demonstrated.

In his interview, Bob commented “I’ve had a terrific time.” His influence on ecology and ecologists is tremendous; he will be sorely missed.

Selected Papers

1966. Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity The American Naturalist, Vol. 100, No. 910. (Jan. – Feb., 1966), pp. 65-75.
1969. The Pisaster-Tegula Interaction: Prey Patches, Predator Food Preference, and Intertidal Community Structure. Ecology Vol. 50, No. 6 (Nov., 1969), pp. 950-961.
1969. A note on trophic complexity and community stability. The American Naturalist, Vol 103 No. 929: 91-93.
1974. Levin, Simon and R. T. Paine. Disturbance, Patch Formation, and Community Structure (spatial heterogeneity/intertidal zone) Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 71, No. 7, pp. 2744-2747.
1995. A conversation on refining the concept of keystone species. Conservation Biology 9(4):962-964.
2002. Trophic Control of Production in a Rocky Intertidal Community Science 296, 736-739.
2016. Worm, Boris and R. T. Paine. Humans as a Hyperkeystone Species Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In press, corrected proof.

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2016 HRC-related Sessions at Annual Meeting

August 7-12, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Julie Mulroy and Zoe Nyssa have assembled a terrific program for the Ft. Lauderdale meeting. We have an exceptionally diverse set of disciplines represented, as you will see from the descriptions below. Steven Armour, who is in charge of ESA’s electronic archives at the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia, will be contributing a poster. Many thanks to Julie and Zoe for organizing these exciting sessions. More information will be in the July newsletter.

See also the April 2016 newsletter.

Organized Oral Session and linked Organized Poster Session scheduled for Tuesday, August 9:

OOS: “The Importance of History and Historical Records as Ecologists Confront the Anthropocene” on Tuesday, August 9, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Description: A multidisciplinary set of presentations explores the increasingly important role that historical records play in addressing the accelerating changes that confront us in the Anthropocene. The concept of the Anthropocene compels us to examine the long-term relationship of humans and their environments, and in so doing to draw on diverse types of historical records and datasets. We must consider new institutional structures that facilitate cross-disciplinary approaches to environmental problems. Presenters demonstrate how interdisciplinary approaches, new technologies, and novel institutional structures can assist us in learning from the past to respond to present and future challenges. Opportunities for use of long term datasets and museum collections in research, conservation and education are highlighted. (Organized by Juliana Mulroy, Denison University.)

OPS: “Uses of and Access to Historical Data as Ecologists Confront a Rapidly Changing World,” on Tuesday, August 9, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Description: ESA’s Historical Records Committee promotes the preservation and use of historical records in ecology. We have invited a group of historians, archivists, museum researchers, conservation biologists and ecologists to help us expand our efforts at this critical time in human history. The poster session presents specific applications and case studies using long term data sets, field notes, historical photographs, explorations of digitized literature and other approaches to current ecological and environmental challenges. (Organized by Zoe Nyssa, Harvard University.)

Also of Interest! OOS from Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio)

Deborah Paul, who is contributing to our OOS, is also moderating the session sponsored by Integrated Digitized Biocollections, or iDigBio, which has organized a session on “Leveraging the Power of Biodiversity Specimen Data for Ecological Research,” Wednesday, August 10, 8:00-11:30.

See iDigBio’s wiki for more information.

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Celebrating Women in Ecology–since 1988

This post is part of a series for Women’s History Month, March 2016. See all related posts.

In August 1988, Dr. Jean Harmon Langenheim spoke to ESA members as the Society’s past president. Her speech, The Path and Progress of American Women Ecologists, was published in the ESA Bulletin the following December. In the introduction, she wrote:

“For my address to the Society, it seemed timely as we approach our 75th Anniversary to chronicle and give tribute to women ecologists. Although women have recently received recognition and attained some prominence in the Society, it is amazing how little we know about the history of women ecologists and their achievements, especially as these have paralleled the changes in society’s view regarding the role of women.”

This speech was the culmination of a two-year project. Early in 1986, Dr. Langenheim had begun writing to women soliciting information about their careers and experiences in ecology. The letters, in those days, were individually typed and wording varied, but the example below sent to Dr. Mary Willson (August 1986) is illustrative.

“As you may know, I was elected to the presidency of ESA last year. Since there have been so few women officers, and I was the only woman president, except E. Lucy Braun, I decided that I would do my Presidential Address on the history of women’s contributions to ecology. This would not only ”educate” many, but would also provide the opportunity to give tribute to the accomplishments of women, and to many who have remained essentially “invisible” (and hence unrecognized). I would like to include you, of course, among those highly accomplished and also recognized women. I would greatly appreciate having from you the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Additional biographical sketch indicating:
    What initiated your interest in studying ecology?
    Were there role models (especially women)?
    Individuals who have particularly influenced the direction of your career.
    What you consider your most important contribution to ecology.
    Any additional noteworthy comments of interest.
  • Photograph (color slide fine) showing you doing what you consider
    exemplary of at least some aspect of your ecological work.

Additionally, I would be grateful if you (or someone else you could suggest) could obtain records of the percentage of women obtaining Ph.D. degrees over the years in ecology at Illinois.”

In 1996, Dr. Langenheim again wrote to many of her contacts, requesting updates for a subsequent paper that was published in the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. For this paper, focused on research contributions, she was able to enjoy the benefits of word processing in her correspondence.

As a result of these prodigious efforts, Jean Langenheim became ESA’s de facto expert on women in ecology and created a huge legacy. Five heavy binders contain the results of her survey and related research, but much of the material in them remains tucked away; only a portion and some general conclusions could be included in the two papers. Without the space limitations of traditional paper publication, we hope to bring some of the insights and reflections shared by these women, these ecologists, onto our history website. Our progress can be monitored using this link.

What stories are hidden in these binders? Follow us as we present these women in ecology.

What stories are hidden in these binders? Follow us as we present these women in ecology.

Thanks to Dr. Jean Langenheim and the many ecologists who responded to her survey, we can share a wealth of history and commentary on dedicated ecologists who, in addition to their accomplishments in research and field work, just happen to be women as well.

Epilogue: As if all this were not enough, in addition to her other responsibilities, Dr. Langenheim agreed to serve as chair of the Past Presidents committee and assist in preparing for ESA’s 2015 centennial. In 2011, she again sent letters, this time to all of ESA’s living past presidents, to solicit brief summaries of their service as president and longer reflections on the events of their terms in office. Much of this correspondence was electronic. After three years of “reminders” and hundreds of emails, the results of that project are now online as the ESA Living Past Presidents timeline.

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Women in Ecology, Then and Now

This post is part of a series for Women’s History Month, March 2016. See all related posts.

Thirty years ago, Dr. Jean Langenheim initiated a project on “women ecologists” by sending letters to dozens of women who were practicing ecology, most of whom were in the United States. From her position as ESA’s past president, she asked each of them for a photo and CV, her most important contribution to ecology (in her own assessment), and comments on how her career began and any role models. The responses she got, combined with her additional research, formed the basis for her two papers on the subject, a Past President’s address in 1988 and a followup report in 1996 (see References).

“In 1988 I hoped that there would be no further need to discuss the contributions of women ecologists because we would be recognized just as ecologists. … Although women have become increasingly prominent as ecologists, it still seems timely and useful to consider the progress women ecologists have made in overcoming both personal and societal obstacles, particularly with regard to research contributions.”
—Jean H. Langenheim, 1996, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics

Twenty years later, we celebrate progress but still see valid reasons for singling out female ecologists. Although contributions from women are abundant, challenges remain.

In 2014, for example, PhD candidate Melissa Giresi tweeted a request for “most influential female ecologist (alive today)”. She started a lively discussion, although the list was not intended to be exhaustive. In comments, Melissa noted that:

If you have been to any scientific conference or symposium, you would notice that most of the speakers are male. This phenomenon is caused by bias. When you read textbooks about ecology, most are written by men, examples that are shown in classes are mostly experiments performed by men. It’s often difficult to break the cycle of repeating the same names that you’ve heard of in the past – I wanted to highlight the fact that there are many successful and influential female ecologists.

This month, in recognition of the incredible material compiled by Dr. Jean Langenheim on women in ecology, we want to present profiles of several who responded to Jean’s request for insight and information on their careers. In her work, she grouped women by the time period when they received their PhDs (we’ve listed a few examples in each category).

Early Pioneers: PhDs granted before 1934, including E. Lucy Braun, Edith Clements, Emmeline Moore, Margaret Nice, Minna Jewell, and Rachel Carson

Late Pioneers: PhDs from 1934 to 1960, including Ruth Patrick, Margaret Stewart, Elsie Quarterman, Margaret Davis, Jean Langenheim, and Estella Leopold

First Modern Wave: PhDs 1961 to 1975, including E.C. Pielou, Mary Willson, Frances James, Judith Myers, Sarah Woodin, Frances Chew, Jane Lubchenco, and many others (see full table below)

Twenty years later, many in Jean’s “First Modern Wave” are retired or emerita, and it is appropriate to reflect on their careers and update the 1996 reports and start thinking about the “Second Modern Wave” (1975-1995) and even maybe the “Third Modern Wave” (1995-2015). We’ll get a list of our plans up soon.

p.s. You can help!


Giresi, Melissa. 2014. The 45 most influential female ecologists alive today according to twitter. Online at Southern Fried Science,

Langenheim, Jean H. 1996. EARLY HISTORY AND PROGRESS OF WOMEN ECOLOGISTS: Emphasis Upon Research Contributions. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1996. 27:1–53
Stable URL:

Langenheim, Jean H. The Path and Progress of American Women Ecologists. Address of the Past President. Davis, California, August 1988. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Vol. 69, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 184-197 Stable URL:

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Speaking of Women in Ecology

March will, once again, be Women’s History Month here in the U.S.* We’ll be focusing on the many women who now work, and have worked, in ecological sciences. We would love to have your help! We’ll be posting bios of women whose contributions are significant but who may, personally, be little known outside the field of ecology, as well as those who are accomplished and well recognized by their peers.

We’ve got lots of ideas and we could use your help! If you have a favorite role model, or just want to help out, we welcome you to help compile brief biographies of women who are now working, or have in the past worked, in the ecological sciences.

Given the vast, largely unsung, contributions women have made to many fields, including ecology, we think they deserve better. Give us a hand, won’t you? (By the way, HRC is heavily weighted toward plant ecologists—we could use some help from other disciplines!)

Please volunteer to help us with:

(links are brief Microbiographies)

  • Compilation of women Mercer Award winners
  • Description of research program and intellectual contributions of award-winning and office-holding women in ESA

Or propose a project!

Places to start

Sources of information:

Need ideas for subjects to profile? Here are some great suggestions:

  • Last year, Melissa Giresi asked Twitter about the “most influential female ecologists alive today.” She came up with a list of 45.
  • In 1988, ESA past-president Jean Langenheim surveyed 55 female ecologists about their careers, producing her Past President’s Address and, in 1996, this followup paper.
  • Does your subject have a Wikipedia entry? If so, can you improve it? Many ecologists’ pages on Wikipedia are incomplete. If there’s no page, why not start one?

* While there’s not a strong focus on women in science on the Women’s History Month website Women’s History Month website, they do include a a great Women in Science photo collection from the Smithsonian and Library of Congress references on African-American women in science and women and minorities in science. Unfortunately their earth and environmental sciences section doesn’t include much about women in ecology.

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HRC Newsletters

Keep up to date with HRC activities and events by following our newsletter. Contact HRC chair Sharon Kingsland (sharon AT to subscribe. Since April 2015, the following issues have been published:

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Centennial History of ESA available

A Centennial History of the Ecological Society of America by Frank Egerton is now available at

From the Amazon blurb:

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) is the largest professional society devoted to the science of ecology. A Centennial History of the Ecological Society of America tells the story of ESA’s humble beginnings, growing from approximately 100 founding members and a modest publication of a few pages to a membership that exceeds 10,000 with half a dozen important journals, in print and online. It is the story of a successful scientific society that set an example for the world.

This 289-page book reviews the development of the organization and features profiles of three dozen ecologists, as well as an extensive bibliography and index. The hardcover edition lists for $79.95.

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July 2015 HRC Newsletter

Celebrating ESA and the History of Ecology in Baltimore
More to Celebrate from the University of Georgia Archives!
What You Can Find in the Paul B. Sears Papers at Yale University
Interactive Maps: A Fun Way to Explore the Diverse Early Membership of ESA

[Download full PDF version here.]

Celebrating ESA and the History of Ecology in Baltimore, August 2015

Among the many activities celebrating ESA history at the Centennial meeting are the following: Special Session 6 on Ecology’s Concepts: How Are They Used and Valued? (Monday 8-10:00 p.m.); Symposium 9 on Fostering Transdisciplinary Science to Meet 21st-Century Challenges (Tuesday 1:30-5:00); and Organized Oral Session 80 on External Influences on Ecological Theory (Thursday, 1:30-5:00 p.m.).

In addition the following Organized Oral Sessions explore a diverse set of historical topics:

  • OOS 3: The ESA at 100: Historical Perspectives on Ecology and Ecological Management. Monday, 1:30-5:00 p.m. 315 Baltimore Convention Center.
  • OOS 53: Human Ecology – A Gathering of Perspectives: Portraits from the Past, Prospects for the Future. Wednesday, 1:30-5:00 p.m. 329 Baltimore Convention Center.
  • OOS 50: History and Its Uses in the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research Network. Wednesday, 1:30-5:00 p.m. 317 Baltimore Convention Center.

More to Celebrate from the University of Georgia Archives!

Katherine Stein, Director of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, reports that the finding aids for The Institute of Ecology and the Walter E. Westman Papers at the University of Georgia are completed and are available online. The finding aid for ESA’s administrative series should be online by the Centennial meeting. (Photo at left is the library’s beautiful Rotunda.)
The Institute of Ecology was a collaborative enterprise aimed at broadening awareness of ecological science and its applications. Josephine Doherty and Arthur W. Cooper published a history of TIE in 1990, “The short life and early death of the Institute of Ecology: a case study,” Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 71(1):6-17. TIE’s archives include taped interviews with several leading ecologists. The finding aid can be found here:

Walter E. Westman was among the forerunners in the area of biogeography to incorporate remote sensing into the study of plant communities. He also sought to show how ecological principles should influence policy-making in his 1985 book Ecology, Impact Assessment and Environmental Planning. At the end of his life Westman promoted gay rights and encouraged research into finding a cure for AIDS. The finding aid can be found here:

What You Can Find in the Paul B. Sears Papers at Yale University

By Gene Cittadino, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University. (Prof. Cittadino will be speaking on Sears in Baltimore in OOS 53 Human Ecology, on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 2:10 p.m.)

The Paul Bigelow Sears Papers, MS 663, are at Yale University, Manuscripts and Archives, in the Sterling Memorial Library.The finding aid is available online (go to: and then type in Sears’s name or MS 663). The collection has four sections: general files, organizations, Yale files, and research and writings, but these are broad categories, so expect to find overlap among them. Sears lived a long life (1891-1990), had a long career, and tended to keep copies of his own letters, so there is a lot of material here (153 large boxes), and one can follow both sides of most correspondence, which is not always possible within the same archival collection.

Of particular interest to ecologists is Sears’s correspondence with Raymond Pool, from whom he first took courses in ecology at Nebraska, Edgar Transeau, who was both colleague and mentor to Sears at his first position as instructor in botany at Ohio State, Henry Chandler Cowles, whose field course to Wisconsin in 1919 served as a strong source of inspiration for Sears, Charles Olmsted, a former Nebraska student of Sears who later dis-cussed with him the fate of Chicago’s post-Cowles plant ecology program, Herbert Hanson, another Nebraska colleague with whom Sears carried on a life-long correspondence, and Stanley Cain, whom Sears first met because of their mutual interest in palynology and whose friendship later centered on their roles as leaders of conservation programs at Yale and Michigan. There is considerable correspondence as well with Homer Shantz, John Weaver, Murray Buell, Charles C. Adams, Frank Egler, and climatologist Warren Thornthwaite, among many others.

Sears’s most active years within the ESA were from the late 1930s through the 1950s, during which time he served on numerous committees, organized conferences and symposia, encouraged more emphasis on human ecology, and worked hard to promote education in ecology and increase the visibility, status, and influence of ecology, often through cooperative programs with other societies, institutions, and agencies, such as AAAS, AIBS, NRC, and NSF.

There are some unexpected materials in the collection. During the First World War Sears was stationed at an Army base in Florida, where, as part of an aerial reconnaissance unit, he did pioneering work experimenting with aerial photography as a tool for vegetation study. He did not follow up on this work after the war, but the collection includes a number of his aerial photos of Florida vegetation along with photos of the biplanes from which he took them and drafts of a paper that he wrote on the value of aerial photography to vegetation study. After writing Deserts on the March, 1935, Sears became a kind of public intellectual, very much in demand on the lecture circuit for his views on conservation, natural resources, and land-use, and equally in demand as a book reviewer and writer of popular articles. You will find transcripts of his public lectures as well as much correspondence regarding his many articles in periodicals and news-papers, including his prolific output of reviews for the New York Herald Tribune and the Saturday Review of Literature, for both of which he served as a regular book reviewer from the 1930s into the 1960s.

Sears’s gift for public speaking was not lost on the new medium of radio, so there are also numerous transcripts of his radio talks during a period that ex-tends from his first year at the University of Oklahoma, 1928, until the early 1950s at Yale. There is also much material related to Sears’s long association with Fairfield Osborn and Osborn’s Conservation Foundation, as well the Yale Conservation Pro-gram, 1950-1960, which was essentially inspired by Osborn and initially funded by the Foundation but declined rapidly after a promising beginning and did not survive Sears’s retirement from Yale. Perhaps unknown to many ecologists is Sears’s association with the Atomic Energy Commission, first as one of several ecologists who served as consultants to the Commission in the 1950s and then as an active member of the Plowshare Advisory Committee, in essence a group of experts in a variety of fields charged with advising the Commission on its plans to use nuclear explosions for “peaceful” purposes, i.e. excavation of harbors and canals, mineral extraction, etc., most of which the committee and Sears himself approved.

[Ed. note] There is also a Paul B. Sears collection relating to desert ecology at the University of Arizona, Special Collections, Tucson AZ. A description of the collection is available here:

Interactive Maps: A Fun Way to Explore the Diverse Early Membership of ESA
By Alison Anastasio ( and Julie Mulroy (

HRC members and friends have been working for several years to make our society’s historical records more visible and accessible for use by ecologists, historians and educators, among others. One of these efforts has involved putting ESA directory information from the predigital era into a database, allowing users to analyze, quantify, and visualize patterns relevant to ESA history. Results of the Early ESA Directories Project have been presented at the last three ESA meetings:

  • Sally L. White, J. Mulroy, H. Balbach, “An in-depth look at ESA’s early membership: Continuity, con-trasts, and surprises,” in OPS 1 Ecologists Doing History (Portland 2012);
  • W. Reiners, A. Anastasio, and J.Mulroy, “Reports from the ESA Annual Meetings,” ESA Bulletin 95(April 2014): 177-186 (Minneapolis 2013);
  • Juliana C. Mulroy, “Communities of early ecologists: The use of internet and archival resources to re-construct ecologist communities at the founding of the Ecological Society of America,” in OOS 11 Communities, Places, and American Ecology (Minneapolis 2013);
  • J. C. Mulroy and A. Anastasio, “How a new society found its bearings: Membership demographics and interests during the Ecological Society of America’s early years,” in OOS 42 ESA’s Struggles for Identity over the First Hundred Years (Sacramento 2014).

The conversion of information previously available only in text form into a form allowing quantitative and visual analysis has heightened our awareness of the diversity of ESA’s early membership, as we have demonstrated in the presentations listed above. Our goal has been to make this information available more broadly. Here we present one example of how our databases allow us to examine ESA history in new ways, through interactive maps charting ESA’s early membership. We sent the links to several map files to Sharon before the Meetings, and she found herself engrossed. We asked her to write up some of her findings below, but first we en-courage you to explore the maps yourself.

The maps may be found at the links below:

  • 1917 members:
  • 1923 members:
  • 1928 members:
  • All three membership years, in pie charts:

[Either click on the link (Ctrl + Click) or paste the URL into your browser. Pins are placed based on City/State/Country, but each entry has more information about a member. You can zoom in to see all the individual entries for a specific location. Click on a pin to see members from that location; scroll through to see member profiles.]

Here’s how these maps can be used to generate research questions [from the Editor]:
Alison and Julie’s interactive maps spark many observations about the origins of ESA and ecology and the spread of this new science around the world. Here are a few nuggets that I pulled from the maps in about an hour.

It was tempting to start with Chicago-area members, since Chicago botanist Henry C. Cowles was a founding member of ESA and an important teacher. Photos of Cowles’s field courses featured a number of women students (see below from the University of Chicago Photographic Archive, #8-01882, Special Collections Re-search Center, University of Chicago Library).

What became of them? Checking the membership in the Chicago region turned up several women members who were high school teachers and as well as a nun, Sister Mary O’Hanlon, who was professor of botany at Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois. I’d need to to more research to find out if these women trained with Cowles, but it seems likely that many of the women in Cowles’s class, if they continued with careers, did so as school teachers and faculty of local colleges. One wonders how the experience with Cowles shaped their own approaches to teaching.

While these Chicago-area women are unknown to me, a few early women members became prominent in ESA. E. Lucy Braun appears on the 1917 map at the University of Cincinnati and was a charter member of ESA. She would become the first woman president of ESA in 1950. Her PhD research on the physiographic ecology of the Cincinnati region was influenced by Cowles, whom she thanked in her thesis.

The maps also reveal how much of the early membership came from various fields of practical or economic biology. This explains the large cohort located in Washington, D. C., where 30 of the 31 members hailed from various government branches—the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries, U.S. Biological Survey—or from the U.S. National Museum.

Looking around the country, the USDA and Forest Service connections are ubiquitous. We notice that the first member to appear in Alaska, in Fairbanks, worked at an experimental station for the U.S. Biological Survey and listed his job as being “in charge of reindeer.” We can appreciate how important it must have been for the establishment of ecology (and of the ESA) that federal and state governments had been so active from the late-19th century in creating infrastructure to promote research and education in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and other areas of applied biology.

We also see that several listings outside the U.S. had a practical focus, in some cases revealing that American scientists were traveling to other countries to address serious environmental problems. Walter Lowdermilk, who worked for the U.S. Conservation Service, turns up in 1923 at the University of Nanking, where he was working to avert famine. Lowdermilk’s studies of soil erosion, based on extensive travels in 1938-39 as well as his earlier travels in China, were summarized in his clas-sic essay on conservation, Conquest of the Land through Seven Thousand Years (1942; 1948). (Left, a photograph of extensive erosion in China.)

Others were bringing the new science of ecology from the U.S. to their native lands. From the 1923 and 1928 maps, we note with fascination the addition of Japanese members Chukichi Harukawa and Hachiro Yuasa. Interestingly, both had taken their PhDs at the University of Illinois, where they studied entomology. Yuasa studied under Victor Shelford. Harukawa and Yuasa in turn trained Syunro Utida (1913-2005), a Japanese population ecologist known for his work on host-parasite dynamics. Since Utida was an honorary member of ESA, there is an obituary in the Bulletin in October 2006, which includes information about his teachers. It would be an extremely interesting project to track how American ecologists trained students who then established laboratories in their own nations. Both Harukawa and Yuasa achieved eminence in Japan.

These questions were piqued by exploring the maps, aided by a few google searches and checks of the HRC website to flesh out the details. The maps draw us into the lives of the early ESA members in a way that a membership list by itself does not do. We hope you will find them stimulating. Below, Julie and Alison discuss the maps and their ambitions to create a rich database on early ESA members. [S.K.]

How Alison and Julie made the maps

We got data for this module from ESA membership directories in 1917 (charter members plus those elected in December, 1916), 1923, and 1929. Most of the analysis tools we used were freely or commonly available. The process is straightforward, even if you don’t know how to code or aren’t well-versed in bioinformatics.

Pdfs of ESA directories (ESA 1917, 1923, 1929) were downloaded from JSTOR, translated into text with Online OCR (, and curated in Excel. This flat file of data from the membership direc-tories constitutes “the database.” You can download the membership directory files and database here:

We visualized location data with BatchGeo ( – a great location-visualization program available online, where you can enter your own data by uploading an Excel file, or copy and paste raw data directly into the web interface. We pasted a few columns from the database (name, address, position, department/institution) and quickly created a visualization of our earliest ESA members.

Make your own map using address or lat/long data by just pasting from Excel. You don’t even have to create an account with BatchGeo ( to copy and paste columns of location data into their online program and create your own maps. But if you get a free trial membership, you get a few more perks, such as a larger limit on number of individual data points that can be mapped. It is literally as easy as copy and pasting from your excel file of names and addresses.

If you save your maps as an image file (take a screen shot, or if using a trial membership at BatchGeo, you can export a variety of files), you can easily turn a handful of them into an animated gif (google “make an animated gif” for free options online) for a fun qualitative look at changes in geographic distribution over time; see sample here.

Play more with the data by downloading the database flat files. Download the current databases from this Dropbox folder.

These maps were made with a freely available map interface and six columns of data. With a dynamic database, creative programmers, and systems thinkers, a multitude of questions can be addressed using the early member-ship data as well as other historical records.
We are looking for someone who is interested in taking the database and related projects to the next level. We need someone who has the scripting and SQL skills to get the database set up with a simple in-terface where others can add and download data easily. Contact Julie Mulroy or Alison Anastasio if you have ideas or personal interest. Alternatively, someone with experience with relational databases may be able to ad-vise us about next steps.

The HRC Newsletter welcomes contributions from HRC members and friends. Please send Newsletter items to Sharon Kingsland at

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