The unBalanced ecoLOGist: Help Science Meet Art at ESA 2017 (I)

I’m taking a day off from writing about my scientific and culinary adventures in China, and turning my attention to science and art. I spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between science and art, but not in the way that it is mostly written and talked about, which is art drawing influence from science and technology, and reinterpreting it for different audiences. Rather, I’m particularly interested in how science and scientists – which in my case means ecology and ecologists – have been and continue to be influenced by art and the humanities in general. I’ve even written a couple of papers on the subject, which you can read elsewhere on this site.

But right now, I’m working with Carri LeRoy, a faculty member at the Evergreen State College in Washington State, to organize an “ignite” session for next summer’s Ecological Society of America meetings, to be held in Portland, Oregon. If you’re interested in this topic, and want to give a talk/presentation/exhibition or join the discussion, then…

Proposals for ignite sessions are due in mid-November (the 17th, to be precise). Our working version is pasted below. Feedback is welcome!

But most importantly, between now and then, Carri and I are looking for participants. For those of you who are ESA veterans, you should know that giving a 5-minute ignite talk does not count as your one allowable talk at the meeting. You can still give another one as a contributed paper or poster, or say yes to an invitation to give a talk in a symposium or and organized oral session. For everyone, be aware that we don’t have funding for this, so we’re all on our own for getting to Portland, paying the registration fee (or for undergraduates and grad students, getting that waived by volunteering to help with the meeting), and covering your housing and meals.

So, if you want to give a talk, present your art/science collaboration, join the discussion, or simply help us out, please contact us! We’re reachable by email (Aaron, Carri) or via Twitter (@AMaxEll17, @CarriLeRoy).


Proposal for an Ignite Session at ESA 2017

  • Session title:
    • Ecological Art-Science Collaborations
  • Name and contact information (name, affiliation, email) for the lead organizer and any co-organizers:
    • Aaron Ellison, Harvard Forest, Carri LeRoy, The Evergreen State College
  • Moderator (name, institution, email). The moderator may not serve as a speaker in this session:
  • Session description (< 250 words) of the session. The description should focus on the theme and structure of the session as a whole. What is the big picture? This will appear online only.
    • Art and science are at opposite poles of C.P. Snow’s two cultures, but the processes of inquiry in both art and science are remarkably similar. In this ignite session, speakers will illustrate successful collaborations between artists and ecologists that resulted in new knowledge for both partners. In particular, we emphasize moving beyond using art simply to communicate ecological concepts to broader audiences and explore the diverse ways that ecologists have been influenced by art and how artists and ecologists can create and teach new knowledge by working together.
  • Session justification (< 250 words). The justification should describe why the topic is expected to be of interest to ESA attendees and why the topic would be a good fit for the Ignite format. This will only be used for proposal review.
    • Collaborations between artists and ecologists have burgeoned in recent years. Notable examples include artists-in-residence at LTER sites (LTEArts) and National Parks, as well as numerous exhibitions in which artists derive new art forms from ecological and environmental concepts and communicate these concepts to broader audiences (see, e.g., A. E. Lessen et al. [2016] Science communication through art: objectives, challenges, and outcomes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 31: 657-660). Much less attention has been paid to how ecological (or other scientific) research and teaching has been reciprocally influenced either by artworks or by interactions with artists (but see S. E. Eldred [2016] Change of perspective. Nature 537: 125-126).
  • Summary sentence (50 word max.). This will appear in the print program only.
    • This session features presentations by and discussions with ecologists, artists, ecologist-artists and artist-ecologists in an exploration of how reciprocal interactions and collaborations between ecologists and artists lead to new insights in ecological research and new ways of teaching ecology and environmental science.
  • 6-10 confirmed speakers (names, institutions, emails, and tentative talk titles).
    • …(your name here!)
  • Is the session intended to be linked to another scientific session? If so, which one, and how?
    • Not that we know of, but if you have any ideas, let us know
  • Is the session intended to be linked to a business meeting or mixer? If so, which one, and how?
    • LTER/LTEArts exhibition (will try to get endorsement from LTER); evening of art, music, and ecology; Natural History section (we will try to get endorsements or cosponsorship)

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