SYMP 3 - Observation and Life On Earth: The Changing Face of 21st Century Ecological Science

Monday, August 6, 2012: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Portland Blrm 253, Oregon Convention Center
Raphael Sagarin, University of Arizona
Raphael Sagarin, University of Arizona
Ecology has entered into a dynamic period, characterized by a renewed reliance upon observational methods where the units of study are not manipulated in planned experiments. This shift has been driven by threats to life on Earth which occur across many scales, making them difficult to study with pre-determined hypotheses in isolated manipulations. Given this challenge, natural history, traditional and local ecological knowledge, and advanced observational technologies (e.g., remote sensing, animal borne sensors, genetics) are playing a growing role in ecology. Observational based ecology increasingly relies on data collected outside of academic settings such as citizen science programs, and is far more integrated with the social sciences than ever before. The resulting mosaic of interrelated observations can provide unprecedented ecological understanding, but because these methods often rely on correlation, inductive inference, and narrative ways of knowing, they raise fundamental questions about whether they are scientific at all. Other challenges arise from the paucity and loss of basic natural history data, especially in the developing world, and these gaps get even larger when we try to find empirical data at the social ecological nexus, where human institutions and behaviors meet natural dynamics. This will be the first symposium to holistically document the shift in 21st century ecology, examining both what observational based ecology looks like and how it can scientifically address threats to life on Earth. Speakers will address the many facets of observational approaches including the historical context that makes the current era an auspicious time for ecology, the integration of natural history and new observational technologies, the use of historical ecology and citizen science, and the particular challenges for the developing world and observational based graduate research. We will also consider the central question of whether observational approaches of various types should be considered scientific. Panel discussions will capitalize on the far reaching and interdisciplinary approaches of our diverse participants, who represent four countries and a range of ecological fields. Although natural history and observational approaches have long been in the shadow of experimental approaches, that does not mean that these should be seen as opposing forces in ecology. To address the many scaled threats to life on Earth, we will need to more fully integrate all modes of ecological inquiry. This symposium will provide both a theoretical framework for observation driven research and multiple applied examples of integrative applied approaches from the field.
Natural History Section
2:00 PM
 Global networks of observers help to understand and manage plant invasions
Aníbal Pauchard, Universidad de Concepción, Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)
3:00 PM
4:10 PM
 Observational ecology of predation in deep time
Mary Kosloski, The Paleontological Research Institution & Cornell University; Greg Dietl, The Paleontological Research Institution & Cornell University
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