Ecological Reflections Activities at ESA 2012 Annual Meeting in Portland, OR

The 97th annual ESA conference took place in Portland, Oregon, from Aug. 5-Aug. 10, 2012.  Ecological Reflections choreographed a number of activities.

Art Exhibit


This display of visual arts (painting, sculpture, fiber, photography) and creative writing came from four Long-Term Ecological Research sites (Andrews Forest (OR), Bonanza Creek (AK), Harvard Forest (MA), North Temperate Lakes (WI)).  Over the four days of the exhibit more than 400 people visited the display and many of them triggered stimulating discussions on topics like “Hey, we’re doing something similar and want to connect.” Or “We want to do that – how do I get more information about this works.”  A museum curator asked for a proposal to display these work at the Burke Museum at University of Washington.  Overall, the reception was very enthusiastic.

Links to examples of this work can be found on the Harvard Forest, Andrews Forest, North Temperate Lakes, and Bonanza Creek pages.

Organized Oral Session

A half-day session—“Insights and Innovations from Sustained, Place-based Collaborations of Arts, Humanities, and Environmental Sciences”—was was attended by up to 90 people. It was organized by F.J. Swanson and N. Nadkarni; and moderated by F.J. Swanson

The objective of this Session was to inform the ESA community of the fruitful and natural collaboration of arts and humanities with environmental research, education, and outreach programs at sites with a long-term commitment to learning about the natural world and our place in it. This interdisciplinary work has expanded scientists’ views of the significance of their own work and enhanced the scope and depth of public outreach. Collaborations among arts, humanities, and environmental sciences are developing within the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER), the US Forest Service’s system of Experimental Forests and Ranges, the Organization of Biological Field Stations, and other sites that are dominantly arts/humanities based. Rich bodies of work in creative writing, visual arts, and performance are emerging from these programs, and networking among these sites for sharing and synthesis activities has begun.  The Session included case studies from LTER sites, perspectives from native cultures and environmental philosophy, and an overview of current networking activities. Both this session and an ESA workshop were intended to encourage audience members from suitable programs to undertake such work within their own ecological and societal contexts.

Talks included:

8:00 AM.  In a time of change – Performing and visual arts at Bonanza Creek LTER.  Mary Beth Leigh, University of Alaska; F. Stuart Chapin, University of Alaska

8:20 AM.  On the interplay of cultural and natural elements in the forest landscape: An artist’s perspective.  Debby Kaspari, Harvard University; David R. Foster, Harvard University; Clarisse Hart, Harvard University; John Hirsch, Harvard University

8:40 AM.  LTEArts: Visual arts at North Temperate Lakes LTER.  Terry Daulton, 3310 N. Kein Rd, Mercer, WI; Emily H. Stanley, University of Wisconsin

9:00 AM.  Long-Term Ecological Reflections program – A decade of humanities-science collaboration at Andrews Forest LTER.  Charles Goodrich, Oregon State University; Kathleen Dean Moore, Oregon State University; Frederick J. Swanson, US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

9:20 AM.  The Fortress, the River and the Garden: Becoming indigenous to place.  Robin W. Kimmerer, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

9:50 AM.  The role of philosophers in decisions about how we live on the land: The significance of sustained, place-based inquiry.  Michael P Nelson, Michigan State University (Oregon State University)

10:10 AM.  Understanding rainforest canopies through Intersections of arts-humanities-science and its communication to academic and public audiences.  Nalini Nadkarni, University of Utah

10:30 AM.  The emerging Ecological Reflections network of sites and programs.  Nathaniel Brodie, Oregon State University; Charles Goodrich, Oregon State University; Frederick J. Swanson, US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

10:50 AM.  Undergraduate education and research opportunities in the Siberian Arctic: The Polaris Project.  William V. Sobczak, Holy Cross College; Robert M. Holmes, Woods Hole Research Center

11:10 AM.  A citizen science laboratory beyond museum walls: Climate change research in the redwood forest outside of Chabot Space and Science Center.  Emily B. Limm/Burns, Save the Redwoods League


The workshop “Engaging Arts/Humanities with Long-Term Research and Education Programs: Outcomes, Approaches, Networking” was organized and lead by Mary Beth Leigh (U. Alaska) and  attracted over 30 participants.  The objective was to provide information about several existing models of programs involving performance, visual arts, and creative writing and philosophy, and then to encourage the participants to formulate a plan to develop similar programs at their own sites.  Assessment forms showed strong, positive response to this type of work and the workshop itself.

Congratulations and thanks to Mary Beth Leigh (BNZ), Terry Daulton (NTL), Clarisse Hart (HRV), and Fred Swanson (AND) for organizing and conducting these activities.