You are here:Home/Research/ Garden and Landscape Studies/ Fellows and Visiting Scholars/ Slow Science: Ecological Landscapes and Their Organisms

Slow Science: Ecological Landscapes and Their Organisms

Erika Milam, Princeton University, Fellow 2019–2020, Spring

A tick does not note the passage of time, a human cannot smell a distant carcass in a dead wind, and a hyena will not perceive changes to park permitting requirements. Animals and the scientists who study their behavior see, smell, and navigate through natural landscapes in different ways. Their experiential worlds overlap at sites of long-term research on behavioral ecology. Slow Science explores the history of the shared landscapes where scientists and the animals they study coexist. My semester with the community of scholars in Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks proved crucial to conceptualizing this research.

One of the more surprising aspects of long-term projects in behavioral ecology is their relative recency—all began after World War II, an era typically characterized by the rise of “big science” coupled with military and commercial applications. Longterm field studies, by way of contrast, typically operated on shoestring budgets. They shared, at their core, a central backbone of data that scientists have used to track the ecological changes governing animal behavior over decades. Valuable on their own, in intellectual synergy the data from these projects provide an essential record of global ecosystems’ transformations in the past half-century.