Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 613–650 | Cite as

Preservation for Science: The Ecological Society of America and the Campaign for Glacier Bay National Monument

  • Gina RumoreEmail author


Between 1917 and 1945, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) housed a Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions specifically charged with identifying and taking political action toward the preservation of wilderness sites for scientific study. While several historians have analyzed the social and political contexts of the Preservation Committee, none has addressed the scientific context that gave rise to the Committee and to political activism by ESA members. Among the Preservation Committee’s lobbying efforts, the naming of Glacier Bay, Alaska, as a national monument in 1925 stands out as a unique success. I argue that the campaign for the preservation of Glacier Bay reveals the methodological ambitions ecologists had for their science in the 1920s and 1930s and demonstrates how ecologists understood the role of place in biological field studies. It represented preservation for science. Most of the political activities undertaken by the ESA in the interwar years, however, turned out to be science for conservation, which rarely involved lobbying for the protection of active research sites. In conjunction with changes in ecological methodology in the 1940s, the Committee’s unclear scientific mission contributed to its being disbanded in 1945.


Ecology field studies place activism preservation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA

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