TROPINET, Vol. 7, No. 3, September 1996
Popular Perceptions of Tropical Ecologists, by Francis E. Putz, Department of Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 USA and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia.
This feature article was abstracted from Professor Putz's Presidential address to the ATB meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, 10-14 August.
There is reason to be concerned about the way we, as scientists and tropical ecologists, are perceived by politicians, entrepreneurs, industrialists, farmers (both wealthy and landless), and, in general, by voters and taxpayers. Our sometimes absurd and generally undeserved public images hinder our capacity to carry out our work. Unless decision-makers and the consumers of our scientific services have confidence in us and recognize the value of our research, our efforts are likely to be unsupported and our recommendations will go unheeded.
As scientists we all share the burden of the portrayal of our medieval origins in the dark and smoky caves of the alchemists--transmuters of matter, independent thinkers about causes and origins, practitioners of the black arts, doubters of the divine order as revealed by the Church of Rome, and maniacal pursuers of arcane knowledge tinged with ideological evil. However, the reputation of science and scientists is complex and ebbs and flows, rising during the Renaissance and Age of Discovery, plummeting with our moral stocks after Hiroshima, only to rise again with Sputnik. During any of these periods the general populace often maintained contradictory opinions about the worth of science and the character of scientists; the Atomic Age, for example, was simultaneously a time of hope and a time of despair for the future of our species and the planet.
Western society currently seems to be in a love-hate relationship with science and scientists: are we sources of solutions or causes of problems? I believe that as tropical ecologists we need to be concerned about this relationship and endeavor to improve the reputation of scientists in general and tropical ecologists in particular. Unfortunately, working scientists themselves have very little to do with the way we are perceived: Albert Einstein is a prominent exception, but few other practicing scientists influence our public image as much as Drs. Frankenstein, Faustus, Strangelove, and Jekyll (e.g., Haynes 1994). Closer to home we should consider, for example, the archetypal character of the tropical researcher played by Sean Connery in Medicine Man; he is an enchanter, his methods are arcane, and he is obviously obsessed, misanthropic, poorly socialized, and poorly dressed. With the archetype of the colossally arrogant and condescending academic who ruthlessly sacrifices people to gratify scientific curiosity, we need to include the charismatic and intrepid explorer/adventurer type (e.g., Professor Indiana Jones), and the comic bumbler (e.g., the scatologist/wildlife biologist in The Gods Must be Crazy).
These media caricatures are compelling, entertaining, and probably unshakable, but we should try to encourage a diversity of depictions that mirrors our actual diversity. The media stereotype of female scientists, in particular, deserves attention. It is extremely disturbing to learn that when 4807 North American school children were asked to draw pictures of scientists, 99.4% of their depictions were middle-aged white males with bad hair or no hair at all, and most of them were working alone on research that was secret, dangerous, or both (Chambers 1983). Why are we perceived this way? Certainly some of us are rightly depicted as male, but bad hair? [no way!] and middle aged? [never!]. I am not suggesting that ATB hire a public relations firm to monitor the media and to assure that we are not being misrepresented, but I think we need to consider how the treatment we receive from the media might predispose people to treat real scientists in ways that we do not deserve. But we should also applaud recent improvements in the way we are portrayed by the media. The scientists in the movie Jurassic Park, for example, are quite informative, diverse, and to Hollywood's standards at least, reasonable.
Perhaps as individuals we can most effectively influence the way we are perceived by the public by putting an emphasis on communicating who we are, what we do, and why. Failing to do so limits our opportunities and endangers the society and the planet we serve!
Chambers, D. W. 1983. Stereotypic images of the scientist: the draw-a-scientist test. Science Education 67: 255-265.
Haynes, R. D. 1994. From Faust to Strangelove. Representations of the Scientist in Western Literature. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Tropical Biology Address List. This Internet list of tropical biologists is accessible on the World Wide Web at http://sunsite.unc.edu/~una/. It is also accessible via anonymous ftp from sunsite.unc.edu in the directory academic/biology/ecology+evolution/people/.
Forests at the Limit: Environmental Constraints on Forest Function. A workshop on this topic will be held by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), 11-17 May 1997, at Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa. The workshop will include presentations on four subthemes: forest water use; carbon, nutrient-plant-water interactions; tropical forests, woodlands and savannas; and forest responses to stress. More than 100 abstracts have thus far been received. The workshop will provide a multi-disciplinary forum for forest scientists working in ecology, physiology, biophysics and genetics and is designed to allow maximum participation and interaction. The venue for the workshop will be Skukuza, the principal rest camp in the world-famous Kruger National Park, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in Africa. The diversity of papers and the extraordinary beautiful setting of African bush and adjacent mountain escarpment will provide delegates with a most stimulating and rewarding experience. The preliminary workshop programme can be viewed on the IUFRO home page: http://iufro.boku.ac.at.
A limited number of slots are still available for poster presentations, which should clearly focus on one of the four workshop sub-themes. Abstracts of up to 500 words should be submitted to the Workshop Secretariat by no later than Monday 30 September 1996, clearly specifying the workshop sub-theme for which the poster is intended. The journal Tree Physiology has agreed to publish a special issue containing a selection of referred papers from among those presented at the workshop. The early registration fee of US$ 990 covers attendance, handouts, shared accommodation, and meals, transport to and from Skukuza Airport to Skukuza camp, two morning game drives per delegate, and a mid-workshop field trip. Forms must be returned by Monday, 30 September 1996.
The Organizing Committee will endeavor to obtain sponsorship for the registration fee for a limited number of delegates from less-developed countries. Delegates in need of assistance should apply in writing to the Organizing Committee by no later than Monday, 30 September 1996, supplying details of their careers and current research. Information: Ms. Tisha Greyling/Ms. Qondile Vilakazi, IUFRO Workshop Secretariat, P. O. Box 95823, WATERKLOOF, 0145 South Africa. Tel: +27 12 346 1517, Fax: +27 12 46 7909, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biology of South Asian Amphibians and Reptiles. Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 1-5 August. Information: A. de Silva, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Tel: 08-88130. FAX: 94-8-32572. Email: email@example.com.
AUSTRALIA AND PACIFIC BASIN
Orthopterists' Society. The International Conference of the Orthopterists' Society will be held in Cairns, Queensland, Australia from 26-30 October 1997. Symposia will be held on a number of topics including Conservation and Biodiversity, Biological Control of Orthoptera, Orthopteran Biochemistry and Molecular Endocrinology. Information: Dr. D. C. F. Rentz, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia. Tel: (06) 246-4286. Fax: (06) 246-4000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
II Brazilian Ecological Congress. The Congress will be held 6-11 October 1996 in Brasilia. Information is available at the University of Brasilia's World Wide Web site: http://www.unb.br.
Southern Connection Congress. Southern Temperate Biota and Ecosystems: Past, Present and Future. Valdivia, Chile, 6-11 January 1997. The II Southern Connection congress is being organized by Universidad de Chile and Universidad Austral de Chile, Congress Presidents Mary T. Kalin Arroyo and Antonio Lara. Southern Connection has rapidly become the most important venue for interchange and the discussion of biological research in temperate ecosystems in the southern hemisphere. The congress will be organized around special conferences, symposium topics, contributed papers and papers, and special sessions on the science-development-policy interface. These activities will be complemented with workshops, displays, field trips and cultural activities.
The main themes to be treated in the congress are: History of the southern continents and their biota--the past; Ecosystem composition, structure and dynamics--the present; Perspectives for conservation and sustainability--the future. Contributed papers that describe the results of original scientific research in taxonomy, evolution, biogeography, history, ecophysiology, ecosystem dynamics, population, reproductive and community ecology of southern temperate ecosystems and biota will be accepted. While the congress will concentrate on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, contributed papers in marine biology are welcome. The congress language is English. However to encourage the participation of young Latin American graduate students, posters may be presented in Spanish, with an English abstract. Final date for reception of abstracts is 30 September 1996. Information and registration forms: Dr. Mary T. Kalin Arroyo, President, II Southern Connection Congress, Fax: 56(2) 271-9171; Tel: 56(2) 678-7331, Email: email@example.com.
The 1997 Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and OTS Sympoisum "Tropicl Diversity: Origin, Maintanance and Conservation" will be held in San José Costa Rica 15-20 June 1997. Long a leader in the preservation of its natural diversity, Costa Rica boasts one of the best systems of protected areas in the world. These wilderness areas protect most of the nation's 850 species of birds, 208 species of mammals, 160 species of amphibians, 200 species of reptiles, 130 species of freshwater fishes, and 11,000 species of plants, as well as an estimated 225,000 species of insects. All of this diversity in an area similar in size to West Virginia allows the visitor to travel to contrasting biological environments in only a few hours. Highlights of the meeting include: a plenary symposium, a symbosium celebrating the 40th anniversary of the University of Costa Rica, contributed papers and posters, scientific field excursions, a gala mixer and banquet, and the first-ever reunion of participants in OTS Tropical Biology courses. Those interested in organizing a half-day symposium or to receive future mailings, please write to: OTS, Apartado 676-2050 San Pedro, San José Costa Rica, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 506-240-6696, Fax: 506-240-6783; or ATB, PO Box 1897, Lawrence KS 66044-8897, Email: email@example.com, Tel: 800-627-0629, Fax: 913-943-1274. The World Wide Web will be a ready source of information, registration forms, schedules, and addresses. Check out either ATB or OTS: ATB: http//ecology.umsl.edu/atb; OTS: http://www.ots.ac.cr or http://www.ots.duke.edu
Special Call for Papers on Agriculture, Forestry, Ecology and Information. Second International Symposium on Environmental Software Systems, 28 April - 2 May 1997, Delta Whistler Resort, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. The submission of papers relating information technology to agriculture, forestry, or ecology are especially encouraged. Within the sessions on agriculture, forestry and information, software systems providing environmentally sound improvements for management will be presented and discussed. The objectives of the sessions on ecology and information are related to theoretical problems about the organization and parametrization of complex adaptive systems. Views of both software users and developers will be represented in all three sessions. The deadline for papers related to these topics is 1 November 1996. For information about submission guidelines, refer to the ISESS 1997 web site: http://cfc.crle.uoguelph.ca/isess97/. For other questions or ideas related to these topics, contact the special chairperson for agriculture, forestry and ecology, Prof. Dr. Roman Lenz at the Email: Roman.Lenz@t-online.de.
Field Station Profile
Ecuador's Maquipucuna Reserve Invites Visitors and Researchers
Fundación Maquipucuna, an Ecuadorian non-governmental organization concerned with conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources, has recently completed construction of ecotourist and scientific facilities at the Maquipucuna Reserve. The facilities are easily accessed by car, only two hours northwest of Quito on the western slopes of the Andes. Visitors of all types are encouraged to come to learn, study and experience the tropical forest's diversity.
The Maquipucuna Reserve is 4500 hectares, 80% of which is undisturbed cloud forest, ranging from 1200 meters to 2800 meters in altitude. It is surrounded by an additional 14,000 hectares of "protected forest," which is adjacent to one of the world's top ten biodiversity "hotspots," the Choco Bioregion. Like many cloud forests, it is extremely rich in epiphytes, many of which have not been identified. The total number of plant species is close to 2000. In addition, the Reserve contains at least 320 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, and more than 250 species of butterflies. Other groups are yet to be studied in detail. Finally, Maquipucuna offers archaeological resources to those interested. Ceramics, burial sites and buried pathways of Pre-Incaic Indians are scattered throughout the region.
Accommodations and facilities included a tourist lodge situated on a clean, free-flowing river and housing up to 20 people. In addition, there is a separate scientific research station for 10 people and an adjoining laboratory. Public space is available for meetings or instruction (the Fundacion encourages educational programs and courses). Meals are served to all visitors and are based on local recipes. A network of trails allows tourists and scientists to easily access a variety of natural habitats in different stages of succession. Interpretive materials are being developed for the Reserve and library resources are available at the Fundación's office in Quito.
Information: Abigail Rome, Fundación Maquipucuna, Casilla 17-12-167, Quito, Ecuador. Tel: 593-2-507-200/202; Fax: 593-2-507-20; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNOUNCEMENTS Meetings and Events - Items marked * are new this issue
*Southern Hemisphere Ornithological Congress. Albany, Western Australia, 5-9 October. Information: Brian Collins, Curtin University of Technology, Box U1987, Perth WA 6001. Fax: 61 9 351 2495. Email: B.Collins@info.curtin.edu.au.
Big-Leaf Mahogany: Ecology and Management. San Juan, Puerto Rico, 22-24
October. Information: Julio C. Figueroa Colon, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, PO Box 25000, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00928-5000. Tel: (809) 766-5335. Fax: (809) 766-6302. Email: /email@example.com.
III Latin American Congress of Ecology. Mérida, Venezuela, 22-28 October. Information: Dr. Jaime E. Péfaur, Secretario Ejecutivo, III Congreso Latinoamericano de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela 5101.
Tree Improvement For Sustainable Tropical Forestry. Catoundra, Queensland, Australia, 27 October--1 November. Information: Conference Secretariat, 1996 QFRI -IUFRO Conference, Queensland Forest Research Institute, M.S. 483, Gympie, QLD 4570, Australia. Tel: 61 74 822244. Fax: 61 74 828755. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Great Barrier Reef Conference. Townsville, Queensland, 25-29 November. Information: CRC Research Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland. Fax: 61 77 814 099
Pan-African Ornithological Congress. Accra, Ghana, 1-8 December. Dr. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Ghana Wildlife Society, PO Box 13252, Accra, Ghana.
Biodiversity, Conservation and Management Symposium. Beni Biosphere Reserve, La Paz, Bolivia, 3-6 December. Information: Francisco Dallmeier, Smithsonian/MAB Biodiversity Program, 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW Suite 3123, Washington DC 20560, USA. Tel: (202) 357-4793, Fax: (202) 786-2557. Email: email@example.com. Or Carmen Miranda, Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia, Av. 16 de Julio 1732, Casilla 5829, La Paz, Bolivia. Tel or Fax: (581-2) 350612. Email: cMiranda@ebb.bo.
Natural Science Collections: A Resource for the Future. Durham, England. 19-21 December. 2nd International Symposium and Work Congress on the Preservation of Natural History Collections. Information: Chris Collins, Natural Science Congress 96, Geological Conservation Unit, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Downing St., Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK.
*International Conference on the Ecology of Estuaries and Soft
Sediment Habitats. Victoria, Australia, 3-8 February.
Information: Cindy Kellet, School of Aquatic Science and Natural
Resources Management, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria,
Australia 3280. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Ecological Society of Australia. The 1997 ESA meetings will be at Charles Sturt University in Albury, Victoria from 1-3 October. Information: Dr. Nicholas Klomp. Fax: 62 60 51-9897. Email: email@example.com.
University of Florida Gainsville. The University of Florida
at Gainsville has a tenure track opening for a tropical ecologist,
particularly someone with and ecosystems approach. Contact Francis E.
Putz (352/392-1486, phone) 220 Bartram Hall University of Florida P O
Box 118526 Gainesville FL 32611-8526; firstname.lastname@example.org
World Wildlife Fund. WWF seeks a Vice President to direct its Latin American and Caribbean Program. With a 35-year history and a global network of 24 independent national organizations supporting work in nearly 100 countries, WWF is the largest and most experienced private organization working worldwide for the conservation of nature. The Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) oversees the work of 80 staff in seven offices in the region and a home office in Washington DC. S/he is responsible for a portfolio of 250 activities and a budget totaling US$17 million, and coordinates this program on behalf of the WWF network. Interested applicants should possess a Ph.D. in natural resources management, biological sciences, international development or a related field, or have an advanced degree and equivalent work experience. Position requires ten years experience in Latin America and the Caribbean in the field of resource conservation or economic development with demonstrated success in designing and managing large and complex programs. Diplomatic and cultural skills to work with a broad array of individuals and institutions and excellent oral and written communication skills in Spanish and English are required. Portuguese language skill are highly desirable. Applicants should forward a cover letter and resume by mail or fax to: World Wildlife Fund, Human Resources Department 538TRO, 1250 24th Street, NW, Washington DC 20037. NO FAX OR TELEPHONE INQUIRES, PLEASE. AA/EOE.
The School for Field Studies: Environmental Problem Solvers. We are looking for people who can understand an environmental problem from the economic, ecological, resource management, development, planning, social, and political aspects. SFS seeks educators to teach 32 students each semester and summer program how to become problem solvers. All positions are full-time and residential. Teach in an interdisciplinary team (ecologist, resource manager, economist) in various locations- British Columbia--coastal forestry; Kenya--wildlife management; Costa Rica--sustainable development; Australia--rainforest studies; Baja, Mexico--wetland studies; and South Caicos, Caribbean--marine resource management. Qualifications include a Ph.D. (Masters with 4+ years of applied relevant experience can be substituted), at least 2 years teaching at the college level, and a sincere desire to educate and lead motivated students. For more information or to apply, send a detailed cover letter and cv to The School for Field Studies, Box T, 16 Broadway, Beverly, MA, 01915, USA. Tel: 508-922-7200 x 304. Fax: 508-927-5127.
Mellon Research Enhancement Awards. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) announce a second round of competition for research enhancement awards. Awards, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will support summer salary and travel for up to three years. Applications are invited from established Investigators in all fields of ecological and evolutionary biology to conduct comparative research between STRI and OTS field sites in Panama and Costa Rica. Successful applicants are expected to apply for (or to have in place) other sources of research support. Long-term scientific interaction across these sites is the expected benefit of this program.
Applications will be accepted until 31 December 96. Proposals are limited to five pages of text. The text should outline the significance of the scientific issue being addressed by the research, briefly describe the proposed methods, emphasize the importance of the cross-site comparison for this issue and address the potential for long-term interaction across the sites. Previous research performed by the PI at any of the sites should also be highlighted. In addition, each proposal should include a brief summary of the project (one paragraph), a budget, a budget justification approved by the home institution of the PI, a timetable, a full CV, a conflict of interest statement and an indication of what other sources of funds are in place or will be sought. Address inquiries to: Education Office, Smithsonian, Apdo 2072. Balboa, Ancon, Panama or Unit 0948, APO AA 34002-0948, USA (Email: STRI.TIVOLl. DEALEAGC4IC.SI.EDU).
Mellon Research Exploration Awards in Tropical Biology.
Proposals are invited for comparative research between OTS sites
in Costa Rica and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
sites in Panama. Awards, supported by the the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation, will support summer salary and travel for up to three
years for scientists at any level and range up to $2000 for graduate
students and up to $5000 for postdocs and senior scientists.
Researchers who have data from one site may apply to study at a
comparative site. Travel to and from sites, station fees, and minor
equipment can be funded, and proposals are reviewed by an OTS-STRI
committee. Application instructions and guidelines for use of
fellowship funds can be obtained from the North American Office,
attention Dr. Shaun Bennett. Send proposals to the same address by
the dealine, December 31, 1996.
The WorldWID Fellows Program provides an opportunity for U.S. mid-career professionals from academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and U.S. businesses to apply their technical expertise in a U.S. AID office. The program is designed to increase understanding of Women in Development issues and to apply this knowledge during a 3-10 month assignment in a USAID office or field mission. Each fellowship includes a stipend. Candidates are required to have a guaranteed job to which they can return. High priority is placed on minority participation. Deadline for application is October 16, 1996. Information: WorldWID Fellows Program, Office of International Studies and Programs, PO Box 113225, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611. Tel: 352-392-7074. Email: email@example.com.
The Food Web of a Tropical Rain Forest. D.P. Reagan and R.B. Waide (eds.). 1996. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL. 628 pp. illus. cloth: $110, paper $39.95. This volume summarizes studies relevant to describing the food web of the 40 ha. of forest surrounding El Verde Field Station in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. The work coalesces 30 yrs of investigations at El Verde. The food web construct is used to organize information on the species of this tropical forest community and how they relate to one another. Chapters were contributed by authors who have worked on various groups at the El Verde forest, and the organization of chapters on components of the food web presumably reflects varying expertise in these areas. There are chapters on plants, microorganisms (primarily fungi), litter and arboreal invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and the stream community. Termites and arboreal arachnids are given special recognition with their own chapters, reflecting their presumed importance as food web links. Each chapter places the subject organisms within the overall food web and then describes abundance and biomass, as well as other important features of the group such as population dynamics, food specialization, consumption rates, and the principal predators.
The final chapter, by Reagan, Camilo, and Waide, analyzes the structure of the El Verde food web and compares it to those from other communities. The authors conclude that the El Verde food web has several attributes at odds with previously published "regularities" of food web structure. For example, feeding loops(=predatory reversals, as when A eats B and B eats A) are thought to be rare in food webs due to their tendency to destabilize the system. However, the El Verde food web is characterized by the presence of many such loops: the authors estimate that roughly 35% of the almost 20,000 feeding chains observed have at least one species participating in at least one loop. The authors point out that this result may be due to the relative importance of interactions between invertebrates and vertebrates at El Verde because the food web itself is relatively small, and because there is a size similarity between invertebrates and the largest common vertebrate predators (frogs and lizards).
The food web at El Verde is one of the most diverse to be characterized in the literature. It represents a heroic effort to summarize information from 30 years of study on this system. Certainly the insular forest of El Verde is less diverse than other tropical forests, but the conclusions drawn from this system should be of interest to all tropical biologists and point to potential research directions in other, more diverse tropical systems. --E. Braker
The Ecology of Migrant Birds: a Neotropical Perspective.
J.H. Rappole. 1996. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC. 504
pp. illus. ISBN cloth: 1-56098-514-3, $35.00. Paper reprint scheduled
for spring 1997.
World Resources 1996-97: A guide to the global environment.
World Resources Institute in collaboration with the United Nations
Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, and
the World Bank. 1996. 365 pp. Large-format paperback: ISBN:
0-19-521161-8. $24.95 + $3.50 s&h. Database diskette: 3.5",
IBM-compatible: ISBN: 1-56973-094-6. $99.95 + $3.50 s&h. Orders:
WRI Publications, P.O. Box 4852, Hampden Station, Baltimore MD 21211.
Tel: 1-800-.822-0504 or 410-516-6963. Fax: 410-516-6998. Email:
Investigación, Conservación, y Desarollo en Selvas Subtopicales de Montaña. A.D Brown and H.R. Grau (eds.), 1995. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. 270 pp. $20 + p&h. Orders: Roxana Aragón, Laboratorio de Investigaciones Ecológicas de las Yungas, C.C. No. 34, (4107) Yerba Buena, Tucumán, Argentina.