LTER All Scientist Meeting 2006: “Linking Science with Arts and Humanities at LTER sites Workshop” report

Workshop Report

Linking Science with Arts and Humanities at LTER sites.

 Long-Term Ecological Research All Scientists Meeting

Estes Park, CO. September 21-23, 2006.

                                    Conveners:  Fred Swanson (AND), Tim Kratz (NTL)



The workshop began with Kratz and Swanson describing programs at the North Temperate Lakes and Andrews Forest LTER sites, which bring together scientists and humanists in the field and other settings to confer about the nature of ecosystems and ecological/environmental change (see: and  These programs involved nature writers, poets, visual and performance artists, and philosophers. The objectives of these programs include using the tools of the arts and humanities to learn about these ecosystems and to communicate LTER science to the general public.  The 18 participants in the workshop discussed engagement of the art/humanities in LTER sites in terms of:

  1. Engaging artists so they can use their art to communicate science to the public.
  2. Engage creative people in the places where we work to carry out their own inquiry and communicate their own impressions to the public.
  3. Encourage scientists to creatively express themselves in the arts/humanities and artists to find creative ways to couple the worlds of science and the arts in ways to further our common goals.

Other LTER activities linking with writing include children’s literature, environmental history, and science journalism.  Specific recommendations from the workshop are:

  1. Promote more field collaborations of people from the sciences and humanities within LTER programs and sites.
  2. Find ways to encourage the artistic work of scientists (including students) in LTER programs.
  3. Add a photographic component to the Trends book effort.


Workshop report

This workshop involved sharing of experiences and brainstorming among groups that have such programs, those who are interested in developing them, and individuals with interests that bridge arts and sciences.

Ideas leading to possible action items:

  • Can there be a photographic contribution to the Trends book effort – possibly by posting chronosequence (“then and now”) photo sets on a webpage associated with the book?
  • Develop field workshops with artists and scientists that lead to products posted on the web.  Multiple sites could use the same themes so comparisons could be made.  Frame these efforts as a concept (within a template) that anyone or any site can use.
  • A significant number of individuals at LTER sites – both students and scientists – are practicing artists/humanists as well as scientists.  How can these interests be encouraged and engaged to enhance site and network LTER programs?

Other perceptions/assertions:

  • Arts help engage people in the sciences.
  • The arts may shorten the lag time from data to publication – and certainly to public understanding.
  • Should the art work be in a competition format?  Judged/juried?  Some argument for yes (including from the artist’s perspective) and some for no.
  • Key ingredients in planning gatherings:  theme, identify candidate artists, invite them, broader communications, outlet for the products of the effort.