CHIF: MBL History Project(ASUF 30005923)

Project: Research project

Project Details


CHIF: MBL History Project(ASUF 30005923) CHIF: The Ark and Beyond: The Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Zoos and aquaria are busily engaged in discussions about how to bring conservation to the center of their missions. More and more of these institutions are seeing themselves as not just places to add a conservation message or try to get people to conserve something. Rather, they are seeing themselves as leaders in promoting conservation activities and actions in order to be conservationists themselves, and in interpreting the meaning of conservation to the public. Recent changes in the way the National Aquarium in Baltimore presents itself (i.e., to focus more on an ecological values and an integrative approach to nature and culture) reflect this. Other institutions like the Phoenix Zoo are moving in this direction, augmenting both their conservation activities and their educational programs focusing on biodiversity protection and sustainability. Zoological institutions find themselves, then, at an important yet challenging point in their cultural and scientific evolution. As popular entertainment and recreation destinations with a not always convenient history of exotic animal display, zoos and aquaria are clearly stretching to revise and in many cases redefine their missions around science, natural history, and conservation. But what does this all mean? Is this sharp pivot toward conservation by zoos and aquaria just a passing fad? Or is the movement genuinely reflective and informed by something more than a cobbling together of selected science and thin, rhetorical commitments to species conservation? Heres where the humanities play an essential conceptual and applied role. Before implementing a deep conservation mission and message, it is important to understand what that means. For example, what do zoos and aquaria think they are, in fact, conserving? For whom are they conserving, in what ways, and to what end? Indeed, why do we care about the conservation of species, or populations, or genetic diversity in/by zoos and aquaria? How have our answers to these questions changed over time, especially as the scientific and moral foundations of conservation have developed over the past 125 years? These are questions calling for a rich historical and philosophical discussion. An opening week-long intense conversation at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts (May 18-25, 2014), brought together historians, philosophers, ethicists, and leaders in several zoos and aquaria currently engaged in advancing conservation missions in various ways. The Conservation Vice President of the New England Aquarium, Director of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Reproductive Scientist from the San Diego Zoo were among the participants. They agreed by the end of the week that current efforts toward conservation will be far more informed, more effective, and just better if engaged with humanistic understanding of the role of zoos and aquaria -- and of animals and the environment -- in culture and society. 1This project is building an infrastructure, both in terms of personnel and in the form of a digital repository and web interfaces, to place ASU at the center of the efforts to bring humanities into the center of the conversation about zoos, aquaria, and conservation. Ben Minteer and director, with James Collins, Jane Maienschein, and other ASU colleagues will lead the effort to connect people and promote conversations. An expected NSF grant will fund the work to solidify this effort, building a series of academic, professional, and public programs over the next three years. The University of Chicago Press has extended an advance contract to the project, which is an indication of the strong interest in the work and its potential to reach a wide audience of historians, philosophers, ethicists, scientists, and zoo and aquarium leaders. As we move forward in carrying our workshops, promoting interactions, and building a network of leaders in order to place ASU at the center of this conversation, we will also be developing the digital repository. A graduate RA will help keep all the pieces in place, plan a symposium on zoo conservation ethics, history, and science at ASU in 2015, and will provide important support allowing us to move forward in the first year of the project, which should then become sustainable with other resources. CHIF: MBL History Project Led by Jane Maienschein, in collaboration with Manfred Laubichler and supported by generous NSF funding, we have developed a research and education system for the Embryo Project. This system teaches students to use a humanities perspective to communicate science to a public audience through a set of writing and editing workshops. The products are given ISSNs and made openly available online through the Embryo Project Encyclopedia, a site which now, thanks to social media, has 100,000 page views per month, with increasing scholarly citations. In 2014, we began extending our research and education system to cover the history of the MBL. The MBL has had over 125 years of history of outstanding science, which is derived from a community of scientists, artists, and musicians. The social and cultural history of this unique place informs the science, and our goal has been to preserve and communicate this rich history to a broad audience. Building from a project to develop an open-access scalable digital archive for the MBL, we are developing innovative ways of displaying the materials for the public and a new means of digital publication (digital exhibits) and proofs of principle that uses a humanities perspective to bring to life the history of science of the MBL. We have digitized 1000s of objects. Yet we have just scratched the surface of these archives, and items of critical importance for understanding the historical and conceptual development of research at the MBL are in need of preservation and their stories communicated. We propose to: (1) expand the MBL digital archives, (2) develop training modules and protocols for publishing peer reviewed digital exhibits, (3) train a wider community of humanists to carry out similar work. Each of these fits with an NEH initiative, and we have been talking with NEH program officers to discover the best strategies for moving forward. (1) To expand the digital archives, we plan to apply in July 2015, with the expectation that we will have to revise and resubmit in 2016, because reportedly most funded projects have had to do so. This will go to the NEH Humanities Collections and References Resources Program: We will continue to work with the program officer, but have determined that they welcome a project that is humanistic in approach while bridging with the sciences through history and philosophy of science. Deadline: July 21 (for which the guidelines have not yet been posted) Awards up to $350,000, for up to 3 years. (2) To develop digital exhibits, we plan to apply to the Massachusetts Humanities program: We would focus on their initiative of Engaging New Audiences for the Humanities. Our success with the Embryo Project social media outreach should give us a good foundation for this. Deadline: September or March (they have not announced the precise 2015 dates), Awards of $10,000, with repeats allowed. This might also lead to a larger Digital Projects for the Public proposal: This program promotes carrying humanities research to the public. We have been inspired by a number of success efforts to do just that, including the Massachusetts Community Archives project. Deadline: June 15 Awards of up to $400,000 (3) To train others, while learning ourselves, we plan to apply to NEH to develop an Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities. This program is a perfect fit for us, since it emphasizes sharing approaches that go along with the tools and skills. We will develop a training program at the MBL to bring scholars to learn our system for digital publishing of collected objects through online articles (as with the Embryo Project) and exhibits. Deadline: March 15 Awards of $50,000-150,000. Our project would qualify for the upper end. We continue to pursue other options, and this project will connect with Laubichlers proposal to the Sloan Foundation. The NEH program officers we talked to made clear that our success with NSF will help us gain credibility but also may raise questions with the NEH since we look so successful already. They suggest that once we get the first NEH grant, others should come. Thats our strategy, including working with program officers to smooth the process.
Effective start/end date1/1/1412/31/16


  • Carnegie Corporation of New York: $29,991.00


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