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Copyright © 2003 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance.

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Hoffman, P. 2003. The "View Thing" Outside Academia. Conservation Ecology 7(2): r2. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol7/iss2/resp2/

Response to Wayne Tyson 2000. "The Long and the Short of the "View Thing""

The "View Thing" Outside Academia

Philip Hoffman

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District

Published: August 27, 2003

Wayne Tyson’s (2003) call to academic and corporate rebellion is enticing. Both he, and Gunderson and Folke (2003), join an ever-growing chorus of academic
ecologists who recognize that the processes we seek to understand are not short-term, and so our studies should not be short-term. Academic ecologists have a certain
luxury here, in that the good ones can arrange successive funding to carry out studies for many years, often their whole careers. They also have access to pools of “willing” study participants in the graduate students they interface with. Those students in turn bring new ideas to “old” problems, and can, if they work hard and seek innovative partnering solutions, create ecology careers of their own which can further these studies.

Those of us practicing ecology out in the “real” world are not so lucky. If you work for a government agency, as I do, you are constrained by budget, political whim, and agency policy on what your functions are or are not. The Army Corps of Engineers, while maintaining a cadre of over 2500 biologists and ecologist nationwide, budgets less then 5% of any given project for monitoring of project effects. Its habitat restoration projects, such as the Everglades project or its partnering under Louisiana 2050, in contrast seek to restore ecosystem processes that have been absent or altered for decades and will likely take decades to reestablish. Yet, without hard work by partner agencies, the Corps would not, by policy, be able to measure any real success from these projects, because the government funding will run out too soon, and be at too low a level to really measure the processes accurately.

The situation is no better at any other governmental agency, where budget cuts, “outsourcing” and a generally anti-ecological backlash continue to strip away the most basic ecological research capabilities. Resource managers and politicians still demand “certain” answers, and when science gives them back the questions that our research develops, the response is to cut back further on the science. I am unsure how Tyson would have us proceed, but unless academic and governmental ecologists are willing to risk their programs and careers by pushing back, I see no short-term solution to the long-term problem he and others have identified. Like it or not, we ecologists live and work in a political world where our window of opportunity is defined by election cycles, and we need to figure out how to perform our long-term work in a series of linked short-term windows.


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Tyson, W. 2003. The Long and the Short of the "View Thing". Conservation Ecology 7(2): r1. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol7/iss2/resp1

Address of Correspondent:
Philip Hoffman
P.O. Box 3755
Seattle, WA 98124
Phone: 206-764-6577

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