Call for Posts: Natural Histories

Landskapsstudie från Barbizon. By Carl Larsson, via Wikimedia Commons. {{PD-US}}

Long-term field research in a single locale has been central to the environmental sciences, including environmental anthropology. From Harold Conklin’s work in Ifugao, Philippines to Aldo Leopold’s research in Sauk County, Wisconsin, sustained acquaintance with a field site opens up to a place-based understanding of ecological process, while teaching researchers to discern both stability and variation in social and natural worlds. At a time when theorizing and concept development has accelerated within anthropology and environmental science writ large, what does the future hold for long-term field research? This thematic series explores the multiple ways in which the “long-term” informs environmental researchers’ questions, data, and conclusions.

Some potential directions include:

  1. Form: Long-term research takes different shapes, and we are interested in this diversity. Not only do individual researchers carry out long-term projects, but they may also carry forward agendas of prior researchers. This continuity comes about through field stations, citizen science projects, and international university partnerships, as well as through reassessments of canonical studies. What do these different research modes mean for how the long-term is understood?
  2. Reflection: As environments change, so do we as researchers, the contexts of our research, and the theoretical frameworks that illuminate them. What new questions, conclusions, or concerns arise from paying attention to an environment for most of a career? How have research practices or ethics changed over time and with what effects for those who reside in research sites?
  3. Structure: We solicit posts from researchers and practitioners who have spent all or a substantial part of their career paying attention to a single environment. But we also hope to hear from early career scholars who see value in long-term observations, but envision challenges to doing so. Can one plan for long-term field research today amidst the vagaries of funding, personal life, jobs, and more? What kinds of collaboration or experimentation might be necessary?
  4. Emergence: Recent interest in natural history methods by anthropologists raises new possibilities and challenges for a discipline committed to immersive ethnography. What might long-term research offer this naturalistic form of environmental anthropology? What kinds of landscape stories emerge from attention to stasis and change in an environment over the course of a human generation?
  5. Boundary: We welcome posts that interrogate the concept of “the long-term,” exploring what a single environment can mean in different research contexts – including but not limited to a single ecological, socio-cultural, and/or bio-cultural community, eco-region, watershed, or even biome. We also welcome posts exploring the concept of long-term in the context of environmental change, shifts in species distributions, and migration.

This is an open call, meaning that the series will remain open indefinitely. Submissions can take the form of 1-3,000-word essays; short photo and video essays; poetry and experimental prose; audio recordings; and other forms in consultation with the editors. Please indicate your interest or make inquiries by email to the Engagement co-editors:

Colin Hoag: choag@smith.edu
Theresa Miller: tmiller@fieldmuseum.org
Chitra Venkataramani: cvenkataramani@gmail.com