Ecology Evolution and Development: The Conceptual Foundations of Adaptive Phenotypic Plasticity in Evolutionary Ecology

Project: Research project

Project Details


Efforts to make accurate predictions about how species will respond to climate change depend on better understandings of interacting evolutionary, developmental, and ecological processes. In light of attempts to integrate models of adaptive phenotypic plasticity into ecological models of species distribution, it is crucial to understand how the specific social, intellectual, and material contexts in which models of plasticity emerged during the 1960s through 1980s shaped the hidden assumptions and commitments that they contain. I therefore propose to travel to multiple sites to retrieve oral histories, and to consult specific archival materials, that are essential for reconstructing four investigative pathways that produced unique and highly influential conceptual and theoretical approaches to investigating adaptive phenotypic plasticity. These reconstructions will show not merely that decisions about the units of environmental change, organismal characteristics, and hereditary mechanisms are tightly linked in evolutionaryecological models, but how scientists have navigated these issues in specific social, intellectual, and material contexts. I will analyze how the specific contexts in which adaptive phenotypic plasticity was investigated during the 1960s through 1980s shaped assumptions and commitments hidden in the unique concepts and models that emerged from those investigations. Finally, this project will inform ecological research and scientific policy-making by illustrating some consequences of those contingent assumptions and commitments for efforts to integrate evolutionary and ecological theory, using concrete cases from the history of science.
Effective start/end date2/1/133/31/15


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $16,820.00


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