As in nature, its often beneficial for researchers with very different perspectives to bring their distinct backgrounds together (Image Credit: Rickard Zerpe, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Guest post by Rachel Kelly of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, Tasmania.
Collaboration with other disciplines and knowledges is central to ecology’s capacity to contribute to addressing sustainability challenges in our world today. Interdisciplinary research involves different disciplines working together to integrate their knowledges and methods to meet shared research goals and achieve a real synthesis of approaches. It connects previously disconnected ideas, concepts and resources, and can be a rewarding experience to share collective interest in learning and understanding new perspectives.
Image Credit: Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0
Long story short, when I was in the final year of my Masters I wrote an essay on ecofeminism. My social science teacher Rapti Siriwardane-se Zoysa said that we should turn it into a piece for their working journal, and we did. But if you’ve ever opened a sociology paper before as a non social scientist, you’ll know that those things can be DENSE.
Image Credit: Internet Archive Book Image, Public Domain, Image Cropped
Non-scientists still often think of ecologists as field workers in cargo shorts, running around a grassland with a notebook and a tape measure. Whilst I’d be remiss to say this wasn’t a percentage of us, the last two decades has seen the rise of ecological modelling, which has resulted in a new breed of ecologist. One who is capable of working almost exclusively with data, producing species distribution maps and population fluctuation graphs without leaving the office.
At the forefront of this group is Bob O’Hara, who has long claimed he plans to retire the moment he figures out whether he’s a biologist or statistician. Bob currently works at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, spending his time with the Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics and the Departments of Mathematical Sciences. I spoke to Bob about the history of ecological modelling, its integration into the wider field, and problems with modern ecological modelling.
Image Credit: Liliann Eidem, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped
The concept of interdisciplinarity (essentially, scientists from different backgrounds working together to solve scientific questions) has played a major role in the development of ecology, and science in general, in the last few decades. As odd as it sounds, working across disciplines, even those as closely related as population and behavioural ecology, wasn’t a regular occurrence. Papers with one author were fairly commonplace.
Bill Sutherland giving the plenary lecture at INTECOL 2013 (Image Credit: Still from Professor William Sutherland: INTECOL 2013 Plenary Lecture, YouTube, uploaded by British Ecological Society, 28 Oct 2013)
It’s not every day you get to meet someone who has been cited more times than The Origin of Species. But at the 2018 Oikos conference in Trondheim, Norway, Kate Layton-Mattthews and I had the privilege of talking to renowned conservation biologist and author of The Conservation Handbook, Professor William Sutherland.
With Bill giving a keynote speech at the conference about making ecological decisions in a post-truth world, we took the chance to grill him about global conservation progress and science in the world of Trump and Brexit.