External Influences on Ecological Theory: The Effects of Economic, Sociopolitical, Climatic, and Other Conditions
Thursday, August 13, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
340, Baltimore Convention Center
Michael A. Huston, Texas State University
Sharon Kingsland, Johns Hopkins University
The relatively short history of the field of Ecology is full of conflicting paradigms, paradigm shifts, and vigorous arguments among leading ecologists and “schools” of ecology. Although ecological hypotheses are developed and tested using the time-honored processes of the scientific method, multiple alternative, and sometimes conflicting, hypotheses are often proposed as explanations for a particular phenomenon or class of phenomena.
Ecologists work on all of the major continents and all of the world’s oceans. Each region has its own unique geological, climatic, biogeographical, and in most cases, cultural history. Furthermore, ecologists typically work out of an academic institution or governmental agency in a specific country, with different institutions, agencies, and countries having different missions and political and social values, as well as differing funding structures and overall financial resources. Could these different and often contrasting cultural, economic, political, and environmental settings influence the hypotheses that are developed to address ecological phenomena? To what extent might conflicting hypotheses and clashing paradigms be the inevitable results of concepts that are developed, tested, and elaborated under contrasting external conditions?
Speakers in this half-day session will present reviews and case studies that examine some of the well-known and less-well-known examples of how environmental conditions, defined broadly, have influenced the types of ecological questions that are asked and the types of hypotheses that have been developed, as well as the conflicts that alternative theoretical perspectives have generated. Examples include such topics as the socio/political context of ecological theory; the effect of contrasting geological histories and environmental drivers on the dominant concepts developed on different continents; and the political economy of biological conservation. Related examples could potentially be found in research done in eutrophic verus oligotrophic systems, in plants versus animals, at high latitudes versus low latitudes, or in different biomes.
Speakers will explore the ways in which these contrasting approaches could potentially contribute to more inclusive and broadly applicable theories in ecology.