National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
1 Park Place, Suite 300
Annapolis, MD 21401
'Before LTER: Setting the Stage for Long-Term Ecological Research in the Postwar Decades'
Seminar presented by Sharon Kingsland, Professor of History of Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University.
Abstract: When the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program was being planned in the late 1970s, a common argument was that most ecological research projects were short-term and that examples of long-term projects were few and far between. Yet these early discussions easily identified dozens of potential LTER sites, on the grounds that productive and useful short-term research had already been conducted in those locations. Clearly a lot was going on prior to the 1970s to set the stage for the later LTER program. This lecture will examine this “prehistory” of LTER, focusing on the 1940s to the early 1970s. My goal is to highlight two things: the way that Cold War concerns set the stage for later LTERs, and the way the environmental movement provoked ecologists to advocate various initiatives that lent support to the idea of LTER. A sub-theme is the way the central organizing concept of LTER – the ecosystem concept – also acquired authority in the Cold War context. These themes are illustrated by a few examples drawn from tropical ecology, arctic ecology, and from discussions about the need to develop urban ecology just before LTER’s formal planning stage in the 1970s.
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The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation, is a research center dedicated to accelerating data-driven scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. Visit us online at www.sesync.org and follow us on Twitter @SESYNC.