On October 30, 2018 the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion and the Environmental Arts and Humanities hosted the Biodiversity and the History of Scientific Environments workshop as part of Oregon State University’s Horning Endowment Series lectures. The workshop brought together members of the community, students, faculty, and visiting scholars to help explore and analyze scientific spaces using a historical lens to address issues of biodiversity, sustainability, conservation, community, and preservation.

The workshop began with a series of lectures followed by a mentoring session where undergraduates and graduate students met with junior and senior scholars and faculty to discuss issues related to publishing, the future of environmental science, and research developments/opportunities.

The first lecture was by co-organizer of the workshop, Dr. Georgina Montgomery. Dr. Montgomery is an associate professor at Michigan State University and gave a talk entitled, “‘The Charm of Oxford:’ Wytham Woods and the Role of Aesthetics and Affect in Scientific Environment.” In her talk, Dr. Montgomery discussed issues surrounding the bequeathment of Wytham Woods and what kind of emotional ties bind people to the space.

Dr. Georgina Montgomery

The second speaker, Dr. Kevin Brown, is doing his postdoctoral research at University of California at Santa Barbara and gave a talk entitled, “Science and Landscapes of Conservation: Ichthyology and the Devils Hole Pupfish, 1890-Present.” In his talk, Dr. Brown discussed the challenges surrounding conservation efforts of the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, and what that story can tell scientists about survival.

Dr. Kevin Brown

The third speaker, Dr. Emily Simpson, a recent PhD graduate from Oregon State University gave a talk entitled, “Ant Races & Exobiology: How Harlow Shapley’s Entomological Research Influenced His Understanding of Cosmic Evolution and Life on Other Planet that scientists have faced conservation efforts.” Dr. Simpson’s talk explored issues surrounding the continuum of scientific research and how closely related seemingly unrelated scientific fields may be in actuality.

Dr. Emily Simpson

The fourth talk was given by Oregon State University Horning Endowment Professor, and co-organizer of the workshop,  Anita Guerrini. Dr. Guerrini’s talk, “The Wild Garden: Landscaping Southern California in the Early 20th Century.” Dr. Guerrini’s talk explored the contradictory roles of Theodore Payne and his relationship with planned gardens and non-native species in Progressive Era California.

Dr. Anita Guerrini
Dr. Lisa M. Brady

Dr. Lisa M. Brady, Professor of Environmental and U.S. History at Boise State University, concluded the workshop with her keynote lecture, “Bridging the Divide: Nature, Science and Politics on the Korean Peninsula.” Dr. Brady’s broader research focuses on war and the environment, and examines how the environment influences–and is influenced-by–military activities. She has also served as the editor-in-chief of the scholarly journal Environmental History since 2014, and will be stepping down next year.

Dr. Brady’s talk highlighted the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea and its potential to serve as a social, ecological, and economic bridge between North and South. Emphasizing how the DMZ is a shared physical and emotional reminder of the trauma experienced by the region’s people and their environment, she explored historical and contemporary efforts to convert the zone into a nature preserve or trans-boundary park, potentially healing the land and its people. Establishing it as an effective cross-section of Korean geology and ecology, Dr. Brady situated the DMZ as a “militarized landscape,” as part of an open discussion of environments that have in some way benefited or flourished from isolation following military activities.

The workshop was widely attended by members of the community, faculty, and students. Each speaker’s talk garnered interesting discussions and questions, whereby creating a discourse between speaker and audience that transcended the boundaries of lecturer and audience and helped to construct a transformative experience for all in attendance. The workshop was made particularly distinct because of its mentoring tea. The informal session was an important opportunity for junior scholars and students to bring their questions regarding research and career possibilities to scholars in the field. It was a well received and attended session and both scholars and students learned a great deal about subjects ranging from publishing history articles to possible ways to use social media as a way to share history with the community at large. Future workshops in the Horning Lecture Series promise to be equally informative, transformative, rewarding, and engaging.

Written by: Miriam Breaugh and Lanch Burch

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