The Long-Term Ecological Research Program turns Forty
2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. Initially described as a “pilot project” and an “experiment,” the program started modestly with only six sites in 1980, to which five more were added after a year. By 1987 five more sites joined the program, and three more in 1988, although two of the original sites were withdrawn in 1988. Some ecologists were unsure whether the program was a good idea, but NSF had high ambitions for its experiment. Research at these sites, it was hoped, would partly build on the biome studies conducted during the International Biological Program (1967-1974), but would take ecology to the next level of predictive, ecosystem-level science. Unsurprisingly, several early LTER projects did build directly on those biome studies, which focused on coniferous and deciduous forests, grasslands, deserts, and tundra. The LTER program now includes 26 sites, three of which were in the original group that began the program. A Symposium planned for the annual meeting in Salt Lake City will examine the scientific accomplishments of the LTER program.
The 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day also prompts reflections on the changes in ecology, and in the Ecological Society of America, over the past half century. We invite your participation in a symposium at the upcoming annual meeting, “Earth Day Plus Fifty,” featuring talks by Jane Lubchenco and Hal Mooney, Ann Bartuska, Margaret Palmer, and Laura Petes.
January 2018, with reports on oral history projects in Louisiana, and an update on HRC’s oral history progress.
October 2017, reporting on HRC’s Special Session at the Portland meeting; 65 years of ecology at H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest.
July 2017, more on HRC’s Special Session at the Portland meeting; linking ecology to arts and humanities.
April 2017, announcing HRC’s Special Session at the Portland annual meeting in August 2017.
January 2017, features more information on ESA’s archives, and spotlights the papers of Dr. Ruth Patrick at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
October 2016, highlighting the “Focus on Ecologists” profiles on this site, and the ArchiveGrid, a cooperative project improving access to archive collections.
July 2016, with a summary of history-related sessions at the 2016 meeting, a introduction to this website, and a note on how long-term records from Japan and Finland illustrate changes in the Anthropocene. (PDF only)
The plenary talk at the 2018 New Orleans meeting, presented by Robert Twilley, has been uploaded by ESA and is available. Robert Twilley is executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and a distinguished professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University. Among the discussion, the talk includes historical content related to the history of the Mississippi delta.
Looking for Women in Science (especially Ecology)? You can find a bunch of them here. For the last few years, we’ve been focusing on female ecologists, especially during Women’s History Month (March) each year. Visit our page devoted to these women for a full list of links.
The good news is we have much more to come! Thanks to the work of Dr. Jean Langenheim, we’ll be bringing you more profiles on women in ecology in the coming months. These latest profiles will feature one of Dr. Langenheim herself, ESA’s second female president and the foundation of our knowledge of Women in Ecology. Find us on Twitter (@ESAhistory, #womeninecology).
If we’ve counted right, ESA’s FIFTEENTH female president, Dr. Laura Huennecke, will take office next month. Twelve of these women have served in the last 30 years; five in the last ten years. Several are featured in microbiographies, but none has a full profile here. We welcome your participation in helping us fill these gaps!
Dr. Cecilia Nuñez
Dr. Iris C-F. Yen
Dr. Monica Turner
Dr. Alison Power
Dr. Bettie Willard used colored toothpicks to mark plants. At Rocky Mtn. National Park, 1961. Chase Davies photo.
Dr. Judy Meyer
Dr. Diana Wall
Dr. Margaret Davis
Dr. Emma Lucy Braun
Dr. Robin Kimmerer
Dr. Saran Twombly
Dr. Harriet Barclay examines herbarium specimens at University of Tulsa. Her collections included more than 35,000 plants, many from her work in South America.
Dr. Mimi Lam
Dr. Kristin Berry
Dr. Nancy Grimm
Dr. Lisa J. Graumlich
Dr. Elaine Caton
Dr. Janet Lanza
Dr. Linda Meyers-Schone
Dr. Carol Brewer
Dr. Mary Talbot
Dr. Felicia Keesing
Mari N. Jensen
Dr. Margaret Lowman
Dr. Jill Baron
Dr. Cynthia Hays
Dr. Jean Richardson
Dr. Helen F. Buell, 1902-1995
Dr. Jean Langenheim
Dr. Laura Huenneke
Beverly Rathcke, 1945-2011
Dr. Pamela Matson
Dr. Doris Soto
Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Dr. Zakiya Leggett
Dr. Barbara Abraham
Lois Hattery Tiffany (1924-2009) Iowa’s Mushroom Lady sparked interest in nature and the outdoors through outreach education. Photo courtesy Jean Tiffany Day.
Dr. Kay Gross
Dr. Margaret Palmer
Dr. Felicia Keesing
Dr. May Berenbaum
Dr. Ann Bartuska
Dr. Sonia Ortega
Dr. Judith Vergun
Dr. Mary Power
Dr. Maria Uriarte
Frances C. James, in the Apalachicola National Forest, October 2014. Photo by Helen Roth.
We also have a new collection of photographs we’ll be adding to the above in the near future. Stay tuned!!
Announcing a special issue of Human Ecology Review, titled Human Ecology—A Gathering of Perspectives: Portraits from the Past—Prospects for the Future. It provides short biographies of a range of people who have contributed ideas and insights that are important to human ecology. It also touches on the historical development of human ecology, its relationship to general ecology, and some of the background to human ecology understood as local and community applied practice, and human ecology understood as the exploration of pathways to just and sustainable futures.
The issue reproduces with modern commentaries three iconic and enduring essays from the first-ever Society for Human Ecology conference, held in 1986. Hopefully this issue will be a lasting resource for teachers, practitioners, and students of human ecology, and the start of a larger body of work on what has been said and done in the human ecology space in the past and the implications of that for the future of the subject.
This journal is produced as the result of the contribution of a small cohort of volunteers. If you would like to help in reviewing manuscripts, please email email@example.com with a short notice of your area of expertise.
President, Society for Human Ecology
The latest newsletter from the Historical Records Committee focuses on oral history, with articles on an environmental history project in Louisiana and an update on HRC’s own Oral History Project, which includes interviews with 21 ecologists.
Environmental History from Below: The Louisiana Sea Grant Oral History Project
In anticipation of ESA’s upcoming meeting in New Orleans in August, we highlight an innovative oral history project conducted as part of the Louisiana Sea Grant program at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. Two Sea Grant Scholars, Don Davis and Carl Brasseaux, along with other interviewers, have conducted dozens of interviews of people from all walks of life. The project’s goal is to preserve a record of local and traditional knowledge by interviewing residents of Louisiana’s coastal towns and villages.
HRC’s Oral History Collection
This project now includes interviews with 21 ecologists. Originals are being housed at ESA Archives at the University of Georgia. More interviews are pending, and HRC welcomes participation from members in interviewing additional ecologists. Please contact Dennis Knight (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved.
Preserving Historical Records in Ecology: Opportunities and Challenges
By Juliana Mulroy, Sharon Kingsland, Tom Mulroy, Fred Swanson, Charles Nilon, and Alan Covich
The Historical Records Committee (HRC) sponsored a Special Session at the Portland meeting of the Ecological Society of America in 2017 on the theme of “Preserving ecology’s historical record for the 21st century: opportunities and challenges.” Our purpose was to think broadly about what kinds of historical records should be preserved to tell the story of ecological science and environmental history in the next century. Session organizers brought a wide range of experiences, interests, and disciplinary expertise to the task, with the idea of prompting the audience to reflect broadly on future needs and opportunities for historical preservation.
Session organizers were chosen for their institutional diversity and knowledge of different types of data relevant to ecology. From the HRC, organizers were Alan Covich (University of Georgia; tropical ecology, conservation of river systems), Juliana Mulroy (Denison University, plant population ecology, undergraduate education), Sharon Kingsland (Johns Hopkins University; history of ecology), and Charles Nilon (University of Missouri; ecology at agricultural colleges, urban ecology). Two other organizers represented broader interests of ESA members: Fred Swanson (U.S. Forest Service; H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon; long-term ecological research), and Tom Mulroy (environmental consulting in private employ).
Other participants from the Historical Records Committee present were Robert Jones (Provost, Clemson University, forest ecology) and Hal Balbach (emeritus, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers; environmental biology). The audience was exceptionally diverse in their interests and fields of expertise and brought many different perspectives to the Session. These interests included: historical ecology, long-term ecological research, forestry, ecology and evolution (the fusion of genomics, functional ecology, earth system science and informatics), network science, computational humanities, geomorphology and ecology, conservation ecology, and history of science.
As we enter our second century as a society, saving historical records is important not just to the historians of science of the future, but also to ecologists and other environmental scientists who can draw lessons from past experience to improve on how science is organized and conducted.
This newsletter also features a summary by Samuel Schmieding of the efforts of a small team of historians to “transform 65 years of scattered and disorganized records into a professionally-arranged collection.” Often overlooked, records of program development at LTER and other research sites provide valuable insight.
The Historical Records Committee is sponsoring a Special Session on “Saving Historical Records: Challenges for Ecology and Its Historians in the 21st Century,” which will be held on Monday evening, August 7, from 8:00-10:00 p.m. in the conference hotel.
Julie Mulroy developed the idea for the session. Alan Covich, Charles Nilon, and Sharon Kingsland from HRC are co-organizers and Alan will serve as the session’s moderator. Co-organizers Frederick J. Swanson (USDA Forest Service, Pacific NW Research Station; Oregon State University) and Thomas W. Mulroy (Leidos/Scientific Applications International Corporation, Carpinteria, California; Santa Barbara Botanic Garden) provide excellent help in defining the session’s themes and breadth.
The purpose of the session is to engage meeting attendees in a discussion of how to identify and preserve diverse materials relating to ecology’s history, to ensure that future scientists and historians will be able to comprehend the range of ecological practices, challenges, and accomplishments during the Ecological Society of America’s second century.
Why can we benefit from this discussion now? As we enter the second ecological century, the importance of saving historical records for future scholars is vital. But do we even know what kinds of records could or should be preserved? Our Society’s diverse membership is the ideal place to begin a broad discussion of what may be out there and what should be on our radar. We envision the Special Session as an opportunity to brainstorm about the challenges we face in preserving records of many kinds.
Outgoing ESA president Dr. Monica Turner highlighted ESA’s first century as she directed attention to present accomplishments and plans for the decades ahead. Her presidential address, The Turn of the Century (28 mb), included callouts to the centennial celebrated last year in Baltimore, as well as to HRC’s role in drawing attention to the organization’s history.
At the 2015 centennial, nineteen of ESA’s presidents gathered for a group photo.
In recognizing the 20th anniversary of the SEEDS program, Dr. Turner noted its significance as a model in STEM education. Many of the “personal accounts” on this website credit SEEDS as an influence in career success.
In slide 24, Dr. Turner highlighted the ways the science of ecology has changed since its early days, as follows: Today’s expectations…
Excellence in science
Able to ask and answer good questions
Deep knowledge of study system
Proficient in (rapidly changing) quantitative methods
Clear, compelling, impactful writing
Be effective individually and in interdisciplinary teams
Assimilate novel data sources and technologies
Curate and share your data
Communicate well and to varied audiences
Multiple forms of media
Connect with non-scientists
Advocate for science in the policy arena
And… maintain work-life balanceDr. Turner outlined the roles of ESA and its strategic goals aimed at improving member services and communication. She captured the continued relevance of ESA using quotes from several long-term members:“ESA has been a place for me to grow as an ecologist, in research, education and administrative expertise… to make my work relevant to policy makers… to make a difference in the discipline and the multicultural diversity of ecologists.” —Carmen Cid (30+ yrs)“…with ESA providing a framework of emerging ideas, access to new colleagues, and novel environments to experience, I had grown intellectually and achieved considerable momentum in my career because of it.” —Kathy Ewel (40+ yrs)
“I was graduating… and my friend gave me a gift of membership to ESA. I have a wide interest in ecology and related fields, so I go to the annual meeting every year… these meetings are times to get to know other people.” —Ed Johnson (40+ yrs)
“No other professional organization provides such a big tent for my scientific interests.” —John Pastor (30+ yrs)
“more than anything, ESA provides a sense of BELONGING. Of belonging to something bigger than myself, a community whose mission and values I share, a community I am proud to be a member of… and happy to support.” —Rick Lindroth (30+ yrs)
In conclusion, Dr. Turner encouraged individual members to get—and stay—involved in shaping the organization to “sustain ESA’s tradition of excellence.”