SUNY ESF, through two of its regional campuses, has joined a group of leading biological field stations in a network devoted to bridging the gap between scientific inquiry on one side and arts and humanities on the other.
The college’s Newcomb Campus and the Cranberry Lake Biological Station, both in the Adirondacks, are members of Ecological Reflections, a network that brings together scientists, writers and artists to explore the connection between science and the humanities. The network grew out of a National Science Foundation-funded Long-Term Ecological Research program.
Marianne Patinelli-Dubay, coordinator of the environmental philosophy program in Newcomb, said integrating science and the humanities creates a deeper understanding of the world. “It strengthens our resolve to preserve and protect the world around us,” she said. “At a time when the value of field stations is debated in economic terms and the question remains open around what type of work belongs at a research station, the kind of work that some of us are doing — both here and around the country — is evidence of the natural crossover between science and art, research and personal experience, and the value of daily encounters with the natural world in developing environmental awareness,” Patinelli-Dubay said in a statement to the press.
More than 20 institutions around the United States are members of the network. Other members include Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre laboratory and classroom operated by Harvard University since 1907; the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study operated by the USDA Forest Service in North Woodstock, N.H.; the Aldo and Estella Leopold Residency Program at the famed author and conservationist’s home in New Mexico; and the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest of Oregon State University.
ESF’s Adirondack campuses have already delved into the connection between art and science. The Newcomb
Campus hosted its first artist in residence last summer, Frances Gaffney, and offers courses in environmental ethics and philosophy. Patinelli-Dubay has led workshops involving the subjects of ethics and philosophy. She has also partnered with colleagues at Cranberry Lake to weave ethics into courses taught there during the summer.
Participation in Ecological Reflections is expected to increase opportunities for ESF faculty and staff to collaborate with like-minded colleagues around the country and give the college access to models for effective programming. In addition, ESF-based projects could be shared with network partners for their use.
“This network is a wonderful forum for integrated work and a place to learn about and develop collaborations across disciplines and across field stations,” Patinelli-Dubay said. “The quality of our environmental awareness and our knowledge of self and world transcends disciplinary boundaries and is deepened through immediacy and the kind of multifaceted inquiry that defines the field station experience, as we work through wonder towards understanding.”
Illustration: Evolution – Expansion, watercolor on paper, 16 x 17 inches by Frances Gaffney.