The other "E": Entomologists and entomology in (and out) of the Ecological Society of America
Entomologists were well-represented among the original members of the Ecological Society of America, comprising the second-largest disciplinary group at the time. The early entomological membership included taxonomists, morphologists, medical and veterinary entomologists, pest management specialists and practitioners of other subdisciplines not often represented at ESA conferences today. They were primarily professional entomologists; amateurs, a major presence in the membership of entomological societies at that time, were notable by their absence. This presentation examines the diversity of the early entomological membership of ESA, and how some key individuals forged connections across disciplines. We also examine some of the potential motivations and factors that may have been responsible for the decline in the proportion of entomologists represented in the ESA membership and at ESA conferences a century later.
The changing landscape of science and scientific societies through the last century was responsible for the decline in the proportion of entomologists in the ESA, with different factors acting most strongly at different times. The rise of, and evolution in, entomological societies in the first half of the 20th Century likely attracted entomologists into what were perceived as more relevant societies and conferences. The increasing “professionalization” and applied focus of entomology in the early decades of the 20th Century may have provided more justification for people to gravitate toward like-minded assemblages of colleagues. This also had a direct and negative impact on the involvement of amateurs in some of the large societies. The increasing marginalization of natural history that arose from the quantification of biology probably also thinned the ranks of entomologists, many of whom self-identify as “naturalists”. Based on recent survey data, entomologists tend to self-identify most strongly as “entomologists”; other disciplinary labels such as “ecologist” or “taxonomist” are secondary. This probably has a positive impact on the unification of entomology, regardless of research focus, but also tends to drive many entomologists toward taxon-based societies, and away from “context”-based societies.