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Ecological Understanding: The Nature of Theory and the Theory of Nature (1st Edn 1994; 2nd Edn 2007)

Ecological Understanding:
The Nature of Theory
and the Theory of Nature
This pdf brochure describes the following book which is available from Elsevier:
Ecological Understanding - The Nature of Theory and the Theory of Nature
Pickett, S.T.A.; Kolasa, J.; Jones, C.G.
2007, 233 p. 41 illus., Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0-12-554522-8
Ecological Understanding:
The Nature of Theory
and the Theory of Nature
Second Edition
Pickett, Jurek Kolasa, and Clive
an imprint of Elsevier
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Pickett, Steward T., 1950-
Ecological understanding
S.T.A. Pickett, Jurek Kolasa, and Clive
2nd ed.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-0-12-554522-8
1. Ecology-Philosophy. 2. Ecology-Methodology. I. Kolasa, Jurek.
11. Jones, Clive
QH540.5.P5 2007
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978-0-12-554522-8
For information on all Academic Press publications
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Integration in Ecology
Understanding in Ecology
The Anatomy of Theory
Chapter 4 The Ontogeny of Theory
The Taxonomy of Theory
Fundamental Questions: Changes in Understanding
Integration and Synthesis
Constraint and Objectivity in Ecological Integration
Ecological Understanding and the Public
Literature Cited
We wrote this book to share with other ecologists what we have learned about the structure and
use of theory and its relationship to the myriad activities that constitute modern science. Our
own quest was motivated by the sometimes unclear way in which the term "theory" is used in
both scientific publications and informal discussions. We needed to find out what theory was
and how it was built. We also wanted to evaluate the varied and often contradictory claims made
about what constitutes proper scientific practice. Is prediction really the highest or only goal of
science? How might it relate to other activities in which scientists engage?
We began with a series of readings and discussions that fortuitously included works describing
the tumult in the modern philosophy of science. This process was tough going for us ordinary
scientists, and the concepts took a long time to fathom, but eventually a picture began to emerge
that we thought would be valuable for the discipline of ecology. We do not pretend to have
become philosophers in the process. In fact, what we have learned and can present here is only
a sampling of the wide, deep, and swift stream of the philosophy of science. However, we do
attempt to draw our insights together into a coherent picture relevant to ecology. This book is
a system of ideas about the philosophy of science by practicing ecologists for practicing ecolo-
gists. We beg the forbearance of any philosophers who may encounter it.
We have taken advantage of the current spirit of ecological integration. Ecology deals in novel
discoveries, establishing new contexts for existing information, and integrating both into estab-
lished knowledge. These various endeavors are usually practiced within a suite of disparate
specialties, and yet more and more ecologists seem to be willing to cross disciplinary boundaries
and levels of organization. The syntheses and unification that might ultimately result from such
migration and cross-fertilization have the possibility to revolutionize ecology. The new philo-
sophical understanding of theory and its use may help provide a framework in which integration
can be nurtured. Thus, integration is a central theme of this book.
In order to think about how integration can be accomplished, we begin with an overview of
understanding, relate that to the structure and dynamics of theory, and indicate how changes in
understanding relate to integration in ecology. We also examine the nature of large paradigms
that affect ecological integration and the social constraints and contexts of ecological under-
standing and integration. We end with a discussion of some of the important ways in which
ecological understanding intersects with the larger society. In a sense, the book has a symrnetri-
cal structure motivated by the need for integration. We begin with a look at the nature of under-
standing and the tools and methods used to construct it. We then examine the generation of new
Preface to the First Edition
understanding and proceed outward again to the growth and connections of the new understand-
ing that can result from enhanced integration.
In particular the book examines these questions:
1. Why be concerned with integration in ecology?
2. What is understanding and how does it relate to integration?
3. What is theory and what are its parts? How is theory classified and how does it change?
4. What drives change in theory and hence change in understanding?
5. How, exactly, does change in understanding promote integration?
What scientific and social factors limit integration?
7. How does ecological understanding relate to the larger society?
In our discussion, several themes emerge. First, a broad view of theory is supported by modern
philosophy and the history of science. This broad view links the empirical and conceptual
approaches that are often considered to be separate. Second, an objective view of scientific
understanding emerges that can accommodate the variety of seemingly disparate activities that
scientists practice. Finally, we identify some large targets for integration in ecology.
This book is intended for anyone who has some background in ecology, beginning with
advanced undergraduates. We do refer briefly to some ecological examples but must depend on
other sources for the detail. To supply a large number of ecological examples here would obscure
the broad picture of understanding and the use and structure of theory we wish to present. We
hope the book will be useful and interesting to ecologists of all kinds. Of course, we hope it
stimulates application of the general approach in a variety of ecological realms. Using the frame-
work we present, ecologists should be able to assess the status of theory and understanding in
their own topic areas.
We have received the good advice of a number of people on early essays and in discussions
that advanced our progress on this book and clarified our thinking. We thank James H. Brown,
Richard T. T. Forrnan, Marjorie Grene, Elizabeth A. Lloyd, Robert H. Peters, Peter W. Price,
and Richard Waring for help along the way. We thank our colleagues at the Institute of Eco-
system Studies (IES) for providing a stimulating and open intellectual environment that made
these explorations possible. We thank IES librarian Annette Frank for help in obtaining refer-
ences and Sharon Okada for redrafting and improving some of our problem artwork. The
financial support of the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, of the U.S. National Science Foun-
dation for essentially "empirical" work (BSR 8918551; BSR 9107243) and for Research Experi-
ences for Undergraduates (BBS-9101094), and of the Canadian Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council has contributed to the instigation and completion of this book.
S. T. A. P. and C. G. J., Millbrook, New York
Hamilton, Ontario
We have often wondered why the second edition of a book needs a new preface and why the
preface for the first edition remains intact. It always seemed like a quaint, librarian-like tradition.
In case you are wondering the same thing, the goals, motivation, and organization of the book
laid out in the preface of the first edition remain. If you are new to the book, be sure to read the
original preface to the first edition. We are still trying to introduce the wider field of ecology to
a philosophical view that can be helpful in integration and synthesis. In fact, we think that this
need has only grown. As ecology embraces new areas, such as biocomplexity, guidance in the
strategies and tactics for integration are, if anything, even more needed than they were a dozen
years ago. Similarly, growth in the desire to link ecology with other disciplines has been shown
to be increasingly important. So the perspectives and tools we bring together in this second
edition are all the more important today than when we began the first edition.
The second edition is substantially revised and updated. While we retain many of the classic
ecological examples we used in the first edition, we have updated the references underpinning
these and have added many new examples. We have also reported on progress and new contro-
versies that have arisen in the philosophical literature relevant to the topics we cover.
One major goal of this second edition is an attempt to increase the accessibility of the text.
Some readers found the density of ideas per line made reading rather slow going. We have tried
to reduce the idea density and to intersperse more examples to make reading and comprehension
easier. We have also clarified passages that startled us with their stylistic complexity. The fact
that they escaped our notice in the first edition was an unfortunate oversight. We have also taken
this opportunity to add a number of illustrative diagrams and figures that reinforce or extend
the message of the text. The use of text boxes has increased as well, while retaining the flow of
the central text arguments, to permif their consideration and discussion as issues worth focusing
on. Some of the boxes are intended to help readers recall key points.
This preface gives us the opportunity to add new acknowledgments beyond those in the
first edition. S. T. A.
thanks Dr.
Cadenasso and a graduate discussion group of Dr.
Carpenter at the University of Wisconsin for comments that improved the quality of the
text. Dr. Cadenasso also helped put the bibliography together, which is much appreciated, and
beyond that, her addition to our understanding of ecological frameworks has been profound.
S. T. A.
also thanks the owners and staff of the Armadillo Bar and Grill in Kingston, New
York, for providing a welcoming venue for many productive Saturday afternoons of work on
the manuscript.
Preface to the Second Edition
thanks Dr. Martin Mahner and Greg Mikkelson for illuminating e-mail comments and
Drs. B. Beisner and
Cuddington for sharing earlier drafts of their book.
thanks the Institute of Ecosystem Studies for continuing support that has generated
the opportunity for conceptual reflection.
This book is a contribution to the program of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, with partial
support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. Research supported by the National
Science Foundation through the LTER program (DEB
and by the Andrew
Foundation to the Mosaics Program at IES and the RiverISavanna Boundaries Programme in
South Africa generated examples used in this second edition.
S. T. A.
and C. G.
Millbrook, New York
Hamilton, Ontario
... Synthesis science can be conceptualized as an emergent research field for harmonizing different data, concepts, and theories to create new insights and endorse practices (Pickett et al., 2007;Carpenter et al., 2009). Usually, synthesis science emerges from synthesis centers, i.e., institutional arrangements that foster immersive and collaborative work, with knowledge exchange by interdisciplinary teams (e.g., ecologists, geographers, economists, and social scientists) and, sometimes, government employees, secretariats, and the third sector (hereafter 'stakeholders') (Hackett et al., 2008;Carpenter et al., 2009;Baron et al., 2017). ...
Full-text available
The highlights of these papers are: • There is a paucity of synthesis centers in the Global South (GS). • The Brazilian synthesis program aspires to transdisciplinarity to solve local demands. • Future calls should consider hiring one or more postdocs with co-production skills. • We make recommendations for improving Brazilian postdocs’ labor conditions. • We call for an anthropophagic and decolonized synthesis science approach in the GS.
... We can assume that knowledge is not really acquired by the student until she is not able to apply it to another context or different situation in which she must put into play that conceptual knowledge (Omar, 2009). In this sense, Pickett, Kolasa and Clive (1994) pointed out that questions are what really promote the domain of scientific concepts and permit transferring this knowledge to other contexts. However, in our present education system, questions have traditionally had the function of evaluating what students know rather than promoting reflective thinking during their learning. ...
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Background : This paper deals about how scientific content emerged through the guide of teacher questions in an inquiry-based activity. The lesson takes place with an experimental device which aims to enable students to explain the phase transitions in the water cycle. Objectives : What scientific concepts are constructed by students and teacher? What kind of questions uses the pre-service teacher in order to guide the thought of students? Design : The methodology used is based on video-analysis. The analysis is carried out at two scales, one mesoscopic (minutes) based on a thematic approach (games), the other microscopic (seconds) based on the cognitive demand of each question from the teacher as well as the decomposition of the knowledge involved in each oral intervention (facets). Setting and Participants : The study is carried out with a pre-service teacher in a science lesson of 6 th grade formed by 17 students in a public school. Data collection and analysis : Our source of data is a 1-hour video recording made during a science lesson. The data is analyzed with Transana software. Results : Findings show how the pre-service teacher uses questions in all games as a key lever to engage students in the construction of meanings. Difficulties are perceived when students try to explain the scientific concepts (evaporation and condensation) in a context of the water cycle. Conclusions : The video allowed us to observe the difficulty involved in making knowledge move forward as the session progresses if the student diversity is to be dealt with.
... However, data measured in laboratories and/or with different soil sensing methods require their fusion and integration [8][9][10]. A proper integrated use or synthesis (fusion) of different spatial data results in a more informative result than the one coming from individual sources and provides new knowledge, understanding, and explanations of the processes [11][12][13]. ...
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Soil sand particles play a crucial role in soil erosion because they are more susceptible to being detached and transported by erosive forces than silt and clay particles. Therefore, in soil erosion assessment and mitigation, it is crucial to model and predict soil sand particles at unsampled locations using appropriate methods. The study was aimed to evaluate the ability of a multivariate approach based on non-stationary geostatistics to merge LiDAR and visible-near infrared (Vis-NIR) diffuse reflectance data with laboratory analyses to produce high-resolution maps of soil sand content. Remotely sensed, high-resolution LiDAR-derived topographic attributes can be used as auxiliary variables to estimate soil textural particle-size fractions. The proposed approach was compared with the commonly used univariate approach of ordinary kriging to evaluate the contribution of auxiliary variables. Soil samples (0–0.20 m depth) were collected at 135 locations within a 139 ha forest catchment with granitic parent material and subordinately alluvial deposits, where soils classified as Typic Xerumbrepts and Ultic Haploxeralf crop out. A number of linear trend models coupled with different auxiliary variables were compared. The best model for predicting sand content was the one with elevation derived from LIDAR data as the only auxiliary variable. Although the improvement in estimation over the univariate model was rather marginal, the proposed approach proved very flexible and scalable to include any type of auxiliary variable. The application of LiDAR data is expected to expand as it allows the high-resolution prediction of soil properties, generally insufficiently sampled, at different spatial scales.
... The creek was no longer just a place for leisure activities, but a place that was an important habitat for organisms that were valued. This shifted the youth's perspective away from the idea that the natural world is a backdrop for favored activities, and encouraged them to embrace the idea of the natural world as dynamic, complex, and "stochastic" (Chawla, 2006;Ladle & Gillson, 2009;Pickett et al., 2010). Thus, even a relatively short citizen science program can positively affect a student's sense of place, and encourage students to see life in new places, especially in an urban area where it was previously impossible to "see" (Graham et al., 2016;Lindemann-Matthies, 2002). ...
In response to growing concern about the increased disconnect between youth and their outdoor environment, this study examines how nature-based citizen science experiences with a local animal (American eels) influence urban adolescents’ (high-school students) sense of place in a US city. The juvenile American eel is a unique animal due to its see-through body, small size, lengthy migratory pathway, high periodic population density, and conservation concern. Interview, written, and observational data were collected through a case study of ten high-school students during a citizen science project that lasted three months. Analyses of these data indicate that students developed greater ­ecological place meaning and place attachment. Students developed greater ecological place meaning by learning more about the ecology of the river and the eels, and developed greater place attachment by developing pride and empathy. Based on these findings, we argue that nature-based citizen science programs can help environmental educators in the US foster more equitable access to nature by providing urban youth with much-needed opportunities to deeply experience local places and develop a closer and more meaningful relationship with their local environment.
... Educators, scientists, policymakers, and other citizens are challenged today by conceptual and practical problems associated with global change, which involves complex and interrelated ecological and social dimensions (Bormann and Kellert 1991). To address these challenges educators and researchers need to undertake a kind of "Kuhnian scientific revolution" (sensu Kuhn 1970), which conveys new scientific paradigms that emphasize the importance of culture in research and education (Pickett et al. 1994;Worster 1994;Rozzi et al. 1998;Latour 1999). ...
Today a great diversity of living beings and human values are invisible to the prevailing culture of global society. This culture usually associates the word biodiversity with large organisms such as trees and mammals. Paradoxically, most of the animal biodiversity is made up of small organisms that remain invisible in global culture and are under-represented in philosophy, science, and education. In this chapter, we present various conceptual lenses that contribute to broadening the appreciation of biological and cultural diversity to capture the beauty and relevance of small organisms and the multiplicity of languages, forms of knowledge, and values that different cultural traditions give to biodiversity. We link these lenses with didactic practices of a new recreational activity and formal education: ecotourism with a magnifying glass. This activity integrates science, arts, humanities, and ethics. It is nourished by the tradition of naturalists but with philosophical, scientific, and technological concepts typical of the twenty-first century. Students, tourists, and other participants practice forms of analogical thinking to co-create knowledge and biocultural expressions of their own, instead of being passive recipients of information. Finally, this field environmental philosophy activity combines bodily and sensory activities with theoretical readings that provide conceptual foundations for cultivating an appreciation for the small co-inhabitants with whom we share our local habitats and the global biosphere.KeywordsBiodiversityBiocultural ethicsEducationField environmental philosophyOtherness
... Further, an important question is whether the prediction of a pattern is regarded as a hypothesis as well. While Pickett, Kolasa & Jones (2010) argue for regarding predictions of patterns as hypotheses as well, other authors have a much stricter view (Betts et al., 2021). Here, we explicitly include nonexplanatory, descriptive hypotheses, and suggest that they also contribute to ecological knowledge about cities. ...
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Urban ecology is a rapidly growing research field that has to keep pace with the pressing need to tackle the sustainability crisis. As an inherently multidisciplinary field with close ties to practitioners and administrators, research synthesis and knowledge transfer between those different stakeholders is crucial. Knowledge maps can enhance knowledge transfer and provide orientation to researchers as well as practitioners. A promising option for developing such knowledge maps is to create hypothesis networks, which structure existing hypotheses and aggregate them according to topics and research aims. Combining expert knowledge with information from the literature, we here identify 62 research hypotheses used in urban ecology and link them in such a network. Our network clusters hypotheses into four distinct themes: (i) Urban species traits & evolution, (ii) Urban biotic communities, (iii) Urban habitats and (iv) Urban ecosystems. We discuss the potentials and limitations of this approach. All information is openly provided as part of an extendable Wikidata project, and we invite researchers, practitioners and others interested in urban ecology to contribute additional hypotheses, as well as comment and add to the existing ones. The hypothesis network and Wikidata project form a first step towards a knowledge base for urban ecology, which can be expanded and curated to benefit both practitioners and researchers.
This chapter discusses some epistemological and theoretical issues to provide a basis for how scientific activity happens within the macroecological perspective. Theories are usually considered the center of scientific reasoning, and there are at least three main related issues to discuss when dealing with them: what are theories, how we evaluate the theories by building models and what their empirical support means, and finally, how the scientific community deals with theories and how different ways of dealing with theories achieve scientific progress. We start with a general framework for scientific reasoning in macroecology, encompassing two main alternative views of scientific theorizing, and discuss their implications for model-building strategies and hypothesis testing. In a more pragmatic and operational sense, theories are better viewed as clusters of models, or in a more extreme view, theories are just tools for model building. Thus, it is important to discuss in more detail modeling issues, including the basics of model building and the important concepts of null and neutral models in ecology and evolution, computer simulation, and statistical models, as well as how to use them for hypothesis testing under alternative statistical frameworks, including classical hypothesis testing, Bayesian inference, multi-model comparison, and structural equation modeling.
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In this chapter, we will address criticisms to the theory of ecological functions introduced by Nunes-Neto et al. (2014). In doing so, we intend to further develop the theory, as a possible basis for naturalizing the teleological and normative dimensions of ecological functions. We will also take the first steps in the construction of an integrated scientific and ethical approach to sustainability that is intended to avoid an anthropocentric perspective.
Yoruba cities are located in Southwest Nigeria. The cities have been in existence before the British colonial rule of the region. They manifest distinctive features of ecological urbanism in many ways. In ecological urbanism, cities are interpreted as ecosystems. These are human and nonhuman systems that co-exist to simultaneously provide and access ecosystem services symbiotically. It is argued in ecological urbanism that there is an interface between ecology and urbanism. This interface is explored to redefine cities in terms of metaphor and literally as biological organisms. For this reason, ecological urbanism is an eco-cultural strategy designed to solve the current crisis on urban nature. It is indeed landscape-urbanism-reloaded. It provides a shift of paradigm from defining cities as built forms to redesigning them as ecosystems of nature for human wellbeing. An understanding of this fusion of humans and nonhumans from theoretical perspectives can inform best practices for achieving ecosystem services for human wellbeing. This chapter examines the concepts of these connections to interrogate ecosystem services of green infrastructure in Yoruba cities. The emerging conceptual framework guided the methodological approach of the study meta narrated in this book. This chapter identifies the trajectories of ecological urbanism through seminal works. These include the works of Patrick Geddes, Ian McHarg, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford, Henri Lefebvre, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Ebenezer Howard, Charles Waldeheim, Anne Whiston Spirn, and Mohsen Mostafavi. The chapter refers to the relevances of ecological urbanism to the 2030 Agenda of the United Nation on Sustainable Development Goals. It then focusses on three quests with reference to Yoruba cities to unpack: (1) the ontological worldviews that are dominant about the nature of green infrastructure in Yoruba cities; (2) how these ontological worldviews guide an acceptable epistemological framework for studying ecosystem services of green infrastructure in Yorubacities; (3) and how the methodology of studying ecosystem services of green infrastructure in Yoruba cities emerges from this epistemological paradigm. The emerging conceptual framework for the evaluation of ecosystem services of green infrastructure in Yoruba cities relies on relativist ontology, interpretivist epistemology, and subjectivist methodology. The chapter concludes that the study is not only amenable to this conceptual framework, it is almost a condicio sine qua non to studying Yoruba ecological urbanism. The next chapter of the book discusses the ecosystem services of specific green and blue spaces in particular Yoruba cities. It aims to understand the mechanisms of the ecosystem performance of the spaces through the conceptual framework developed in this chapter.KeywordsUrban ecosystem servicesUrban green infrastructureEcological citiesUrban ecosystemsYoruba urbanismYoruba citiesUnited Nations Sustainable Development Goals
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