94th ESA Annual Meeting (August 2 -- 7, 2009)

SYMP 16 - The Ecology of Place: Charting a Course for Understanding the Planet

Thursday, August 6, 2009: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Blrm A, Albuquerque Convention Center
Mary V. Price
Ian Billick
Nickolas M. Waser
The diversity, complexity, and contingency of ecological systems both bless and challenge ecologists. They bless us with beauty and endless fascination; our subject is never boring. But they also challenge us with a difficult task: to develop general and useful understanding even though the outcomes of our studies typically depend on a host of factors unique to the focal system as well as the particular location and time of the study. Ecologists address this central methodological dilemma in various ways. Some seek general insights by replicating observations, experiments, or measurements across taxa, space, and time. This comparative, pattern-analytic approach, makes generalizations in the form of statements about frequencies of occurrence and estimates of parameters or trends. Others seek generality by constructing “pure” theory with potential applicability to many systems. Still others seek to understand universal ecological processes by studying simplified systems that remove some of the complexity of the real world. All of these approaches generate important insights. Paradoxically, many ecologists seek general understanding in a completely different way: they intensively study unsimplified systems in natural contexts – in particular places. We call this little-discussed approach “The Ecology of Place.” It is similar in many regards to Case Study methods increasingly used in the social sciences. What is paradoxical about The Ecology of Place is that an intense focus on the particular somehow yields portable knowledge that can be applied to other places and cases. While we may not yet understand how this happens – that’s for philosophers of science to work out – happen it does: The Ecology of Place has generated important insights. Indeed, some argue that it has been responsible for much of the progress in ecology over the past century. Given the pressing environmental challenges facing the planet, it is critical that ecologists develop an arsenal of effective strategies for generating knowledge useful for solving real-world problems. This symposium inaugurates discussion of one such strategy – The Ecology of Place. Topics include: what The Ecology of Place is; contributions place-centered studies have made to ecological knowledge; the role of theory in place-based research; how general insights arise from a focus on particular systems, as illustrated with two case studies; and how we can build capacity for Ecology of Place by investing in places – field stations – and in place-based collaborative management and educational programs for scientists and nonscientists alike.
Organization of Biological Field Stations
8:00 AM
Introduction to the symposium: What is the ecology of place?
Mary V. Price, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory; Ian Billick, Rocky Mountain Biologial Laboratoy
8:45 AM
Understanding the role of predation in open systems: The value of place-based research
Barbara Peckarsky, University of Wisconsin; David Allan, University of Michigan; Angus R. McIntosh, University of Canterbury; Brad W. Taylor, Dartmouth College
9:35 AM
9:50 AM
The model ecosystem as a paradigm of place-based research: Contrasting approaches to field station development within the UC Davis Natural Reserve System
Paul A. Aigner, University of California, Davis; Catherine E. Koehler, University of California, Davis; Virginia Boucher, University of California, Davis; Shane Waddell, University of California, Davis
10:40 AM
Building local capacity for ecology and conservation of place in Latin America
Peter Feinsinger, Wildlife Conservation Society; Andrew Noss, Wildlife Conservation Society
11:05 AM
Summary and Synthesis
Ian Billick, Rocky Mountain Biologial Laboratoy
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