ESA's Struggle for Identity Over the First 100 Years: Lessons for the Future?
Thursday, August 14, 2014: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
204, Sacramento Convention Center
Juliana C. Mulroy, Denison University
Kathleen J. Fichtel, West Virginia University
Robert H. Jones, West Virginia University
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) was formed in 1915 with the express intent of bringing those interested in ecology together to share common interests in a way not possible in other societies of the time. Membership was open to anyone interested in ecology, without regard to academic degrees, employment status, or specific interests in the general area of "environment." Early members included not only many who were or became well-recognized ecologists and familiar names in ESA history, but also a dry goods merchant, a university English professor, a library cataloguer, lab and field technicians, and high school teachers. Among professional scientists, there were eugenicists, medical doctors, climatologists, geographers, and taxonomists as well as those we would immediately recognize as plant and animal ecologists. In preparing for ESA’s Centennial, we explore the shifting directions and interests of the Society in the context of changes in science and society. We believe that to prepare a blueprint for the future, we need to better understand who we are and from where we have come. As ESA struggles with questions of goals and even identity in the Anthropocene, we demonstrate that recognition of humans as a powerful force in the natural world have been part of internal debates since ESA’s inception, even though the Society has not always taken a leadership role in addressing these issues. Individual presentations focus on demographics and interests of formative cohorts of early ESA members, the role of land grant institutions (including early Historically Black Colleges and Universities), the waxing and waning of interest in human ecology over the years, restoration ecology, and history and trends in diversity at ESA as reflected by demographic changes and the evolving acceptance of different approaches to the creation and dissemination of new knowledge.