A Guide to Ecology’s Past, Current and Future History: Reflections On a Theme By Robert Mcintosh
Monday, August 5, 2013: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
M100EF, Minneapolis Convention Center
James A. MacMahon, Utah State University
Katherine L. Gross, Michigan State University
The science of ecology is changing rapidly. Gone are its descriptive days; replaced now with a science better guided by theory and more cognizant of the interactions between levels of ecological organization. In this symposium we want to look at Ecology’s past and take stock of what we have learned to date, with an eye towards what the future holds for our field. We approach this task by using Robert P. McIntosh’s book, “The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory”, as a touchstone and guide to developing “a general account of the origins, development, and current problems of ecology”.
In his 1985 book, MacIntosh succeeded in using the past to elucidate the present, and to be prescient about the future of Ecology. In this symposium several speakers will use knowledge of ecological history since 1985 as a starting point to assess our current knowledge and practices in seven contemporary subdisciplines. In addition we will develop a more recent account of the origins, development, and current problems of ecology. We use the theme of Robert McIntosh’s book to help inspire the next generation of ecologists; illuminating the “roots” of ecology’s background and be a guide to current and future areas of research. Speakers will address broad areas of ecology in the context of the history of important changes as they relate to the science of ecology today. These overarching areas of interest are: history of ecology, paleoecology, physiological ecology, quantitative ecology, population ecology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, theoretical ecology and applied ecology. We believe that consideration of historical changes will increase our understanding of the processes of change in our science, and rethinking the history of our discipline will enlighten our contemporary thinking. As Mac stated in his book (p. ix), "Ecologists should be free of … the 'tyranny of the present,' not simply because knowledge of past events is interesting but because ignorance of the past makes for redundancy at best and confusion at worst."