Natural history from decline to rebirth
- Joshua Tewksbury
|Sabbatical Fellow||1st September 2010—30th June 2011||Participant List|
Declines in natural history are reported in research, in education, and in childhood and adult experience. At the same time, the need for natural history information is in greater demand than ever before. Declines in natural history may have far reaching consequences, potentially reducing progress across the natural sciences, changing how we view and understand the world, and limiting the tools we have to plan for the future, and yet there is a paucity of data‐driven evaluations exploring changes in natural history in research, education, and in society. This raises an important question: is Natural History truly declining or simply changing? Have we lost natural history from undergraduate education, or has it moved from taxon to topic‐focused courses? In this sabbatical, I propose to synthesize contemporary trends in natural history and explore their consequences. During my sabbatical, I will manage 4 workshops (funded externally) that will assist in re‐imaging the role of natural history in society, research, and education, and I will draw together a large array of data on the practice of natural history – from graduate and undergraduate “field time” in US institutions to field guide book sales and trends in nature center enrolment and curricula. All of this data will become part of the NCEAS database. In addition, I will integrate this work with ongoing ecoinformatics initiatives ongoing at NCEAS (DataONE). This effort, and this proposal, is the product of a session I organized at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting this year, focused on the past and future of natural history. This was the most heavily attended session of the meeting, with over 400 ecologists present, and multiple opportunities to synthesize this information (two book requests, two journal requests, and a workshop proposal to NSF) came directly from that session at ESA. The workshop proposal has now been funded, and I plan to integrate that work with ongoing initiatives at NCEAS.