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Erika Lorraine Milam

“Slow Science: Ecological Landscapes and Their Organisms”

Erika Milam

Princeton University, Garden and Landscape Studies Fellow, Spring

Slow Science explores the history of the shared landscapes where scientists and the animals they study coexist. Ecologists created many long-term ecological field sites in the decades following the Second World War, which makes them more recent than molecular biology. Yet Milam argues that long-term field studies of animal behavior in the wild embodied a very different set of assumptions about the processes by which new knowledge about the living world could be generated: these projects operated on shoestring budgets and they had at their core a central backbone of data that allowed scientists to track the ecological changes that affected populations over decades. Valuable on their own, in intellectual synergy the data from these field sites now provide an essential record of global ecosystems’ climatic transformations in the past half-century.

Erika Lorraine Milam is professor of history at Princeton University. She specializes in the history of the modern life sciences, especially evolutionary theory. Her research explores how scientists have used animals as models for understanding human behavior, from sex to aggression. She is author of Creatures of Cain: The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America (Princeton University Press, 2019) and Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). Together with Robert A. Nye, she coedited Scientific Masculinities (Osiris vol. 30, University of Chicago Press, 2015).