Hydraulic society and a “stupid little fish”: toward a historical ontology of endangerment

Abstract

Endangered species are objects of intense scientific scrutiny and political conflict. This article focuses on the interplay among human-nonhuman relations, knowledge production, and the politics of endangerment. Advancing a historical ontology of endangerment, it highlights the role of transforming the nonhuman world in the coming to be of new objects of environmental knowledge. Such knowledge can provide the basis for credible claims of endangerment, facilitating mobilizations against the very human-nonhuman relations that produced it. An in-depth case study of the delta smelt, an endangered species of fish caught in the center of California’s “water wars,” shows how changes in the instrumentalization of the nonhuman environment can produce new knowledge of nature that allows actors to make claims and form coalitions that would be otherwise inconceivable. Because its sole habitat is the hub of California’s water delivery system, efforts to save the species from extinction have reduced flows to farms and cities, fomenting conflict between environmentalists and water users. This article demonstrates that the taxonomic classification of the delta smelt as a species and evidence of its decline arose directly from the reengineering of California’s rivers for extractive ends. Ironically, the knowledge on which environmental advocates relied was a product of the instrumental relation to nature that they sought to transform.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Notes

  1. 1.

    The analysis is based on archival records, official reports and memoranda, legal documents, biographical materials, scientific articles, museum and newspaper databases, expert self-reports (ten formal expert interviews and many more informal conversations with individuals actively involved in the case), over 100 hours of non-participant observations at workshops, symposia, a facility tour, university and public lectures, and a review of the secondary literature on modern California history, biological taxonomy, and endangered species law and politics. Observations, interviews, and secondary and journalistic sources were used primarily to triangulate findings, but the bulk of the evidence used to construct the case consists in over 300 primary documents (including administrative sources, grey literature, and published scientific articles from relevant historical periods) from governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and associations, universities, and research institutions, spanning from approximately 1900 to the present. Direct quotations from self-reports have been verified with a recording. All data were collected between 2014 and 2018. Specific sources are noted throughout.

  2. 2.

    Its scope is similar to what others have suggested as “ontography” (Lynch 2013; Domínguez Rubio 2016), however the diachronic, rather than spatial framing of historical ontology is better suited for studying the relationship between science and politics over time.

  3. 3.

    This concern with the causes and consequences of human knowledge of nature places my position closer to purportedly antique sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) than ANT. However, the centrality of concrete, material, human-nonhuman relations in this proposal and its empirical illustration blunts the common criticism of SSK that it ignores the causally independent role of nonhumans. Rather than asserting that everything is an actant, the question is: under what conditions do nonhumans come to exert different sorts of agency?

  4. 4.

    Here I am inspired by Foucault’s (2006, p. 459) focus on the relationship between the socio-historically specific “mode[s] of ‘subjectivation’” and of objectification, the “question of determining under what conditions something can become an object for a possible knowledge.” This is consistent with Hacking’s (2002) concept of historical ontology, which was inspired by Foucault’s (1984) “historical ontology of ourselves.”

  5. 5.

    My focus is meso-level orders (Fligstein and McAdam 2012) — specifically, how scientific knowledge relates to collective interests, alliances, and mobilizations — rather than the self (Jerolmack and Tavory 2014), but the two focuses are compatible. See Epstein (2007) for an excellent example of research that reconciles the Foucauldian concern with the conditions of emergence of knowledge with an analytical focus on meso-level transformation. Similarly, I aim to demonstrate that careful attention to the role of science and the nonhuman in modern society need not come with a rejection of the insights of institutional approaches to social change and stability.

  6. 6.

    I do not claim that all human-nonhuman relations are instrumental or that non-instrumental relations are not relevant to the emergence of environmental knowledge. Angelo (2013, p. 354), for example, highlights experiential, aesthetic encounters with nature and points out that “understandings of nature are inseparable from the concrete ways in which we encounter it.”

  7. 7.

    The Index of Organic Names demonstrates the acceleration of new species classifications in the mid-twentieth century. See: http://www.organismnames.com/metrics.htm?page=graphs.

  8. 8.

    There is a vast philosophical literature about “natural kinds” (cf. Campbell et al. 2011). A comprehensive review is beyond the scope of this article, but I aim to facilitate more dialogue between philosophers and social scientists on this topic. Within STS, Dupré’s position is closest to “finitism” (cf. Sismondo 2004, pp. 43–44).

  9. 9.

    The identification of new species has become a purposive strategy for advocates of environmental protection. The snail darter controversy is one important example of this (Plater 2013). This does not go far in explaining the delta smelt case, but there is no contradiction in acknowledging the coexistence of material and social preconditions for taxonomic classifications and the strategic motives behind identifying them.

  10. 10.

    A few words are required to identify the relevant agencies. The California Board of Fish Commissioners, established in 1870, was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States. In 1909 it became the California Fish and Game Commission. In 1927, its administrative functions were taken over by the Division of Fish and Game in the Department of Natural Resources (CDFG), with the Commission retaining regulatory powers. The Division was elevated to departmental status in 1951. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) was renamed the Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2012. To avoid confusion I refer to “California fish and game agencies” when discussing time periods that span these name changes and changes to agency structure (Department of Fish and Wildlife 2016).

  11. 11.

    California’s fish and game agencies have published a “Fish Bulletin” (hereafter, FB) series since 1913 and a journal, California Fish and Game (hereafter, CFG), since 1915. From 1928 to 1986, FB included commercial landing report with a quantification of total commercial landings. CFG also included commercial landings reports for much of this period, although at varying intervals. During the first half of the twentieth century, these were the only systematic, comprehensive, and consistently collected data on fisheries in California, although many individual studies on particular topics of concern were commissioned and published in one or the other. A representative sample of the commercial catch reports from 1928 to 1950 shows that “smelt” simpliciter is the category used in commercial landings reports: CFG 14.1 (1928) p. 102; CFG 18.2 (1932) p. 197; CFG 24.3 (1938) p. 207; FB 30 (1929) p. 128; FB 44 (1935) p. 108; FB 58 (1942) p. 42; FB 67 (1947) p. 45; FB 80 (1951) p. 31; FB 86 (1952) p. 92.

  12. 12.

    Collection data for the California Academy of Sciences are available at: http://researcharchive.calacademy.org.

  13. 13.

    Collection data for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History are available at: http://collections.nmnh.si.edu.

  14. 14.

    Another collection of note is the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. However, most of the Hypomesus specimens deposited there prior to the 1925 revision were collected by Hubbs himself during his tenure there as the curator of fish, and not not one Hypomesus olidus specimen on record was collected in North America. Complete collection data are available at: http://fms02.lsa.umich.edu/fmi/webd/ummz_fish.

  15. 15.

    The introduction of Japanese smelt (wakasagi) to California is now considered a problem (Moyle 2002, p. 227).

  16. 16.

    In the description of the pond smelt, McAllister (1963, pp. 31–34) writes that it can be “[d]istinguished from other Hypomesus by the low number of pyloric caeca, 0 to 3; the attachment of the ductus pneumaticus behind the anterior end of the bladder (discovered by Hamanda, [sic] 1957); and the great length of its longest anal ray, 1.8 to 2.3 in head length.” Of the delta smelt, he writes that it can be “[d]istinguished by the low number of midlateral scales, 54 to 60; the ductus pneumaticus attaching to the anterior end of the gas bladder; and the high number of pyloric caeca, 4 to 5; from H. t. nipponensis by the lower number of pectoral (10–12), higher dorsal (9–10) and anal rays (15–17). One or no chromatophores between mandibles.” The McAllister revision also distinguishes between wakasagi and delta smelt at the sub-species level. Later revisions would designate them as distinct species (Moyle 2002, p. 227; Stanley et al. 1995).

  17. 17.

    As in the United States, Canadian fisheries research in the first half of the twentieth century was primarily focused on the promotion of economically important commercial and sport fisheries. However, rather than developing its own line of taxonomic research, Canadian specimens collected during this period were typically submitted to museums in the United States for identification and cataloguing (Drymond 1964). Prior to McAllister’s appointment as its first Curator of Fishes in 1958, the Canadian National Museum had no full time ichthyologists on staff, with fish collections being subsumed under herpetology. The small collection of specimens held by the museum remained mostly uncatalogued prior to McAllister’s appointment. His efforts contributed to a massive increase in the size of the specimen collection at the museum and to a pioneering attempt to computerize species distribution data, both achievements buttressed by the proliferation of specimen collections associated with the reengineering of rivers in the North American West (Cook et al. 2010).

  18. 18.

    “Holotype” is defined as “the single specimen upon which a new nominal species-group taxon is based in the original publication.” Other specimens included in same “type series” are referred to as “paratypes.” Source: International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/iczn/code/index.jsp?nfv=true&article=73.

  19. 19.

    The author compared all the individual specimen catalogue numbers listed in McAllister’s (1963) revision with the records in the Canadian Museum of Nature to determine where, when, and by whom they were collected. Complete collection data for the Canadian Museum of Nature are available at: http://collections.nature.ca/.

  20. 20.

    Interview, Peter Moyle, 26 September 2018.

  21. 21.

    Moyle’s petition was initially only sent to the state of California because he “had some inkling the petition would be controversial” and since “the California Endangered Species Act was a much weaker law than the federal act,” he “thought there would be more flexibility in dealing with the water controversies that seemed likely to follow its listing.” While this initial petition was rejected, “the following year the American Fisheries Society slapped a new cover letter on the petition and submitted it to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and it became [ESA-]listed in 1993.” Moyle’s Plenary Lecture, Bay Delta Science Conference in Sacramento, California. 15 November 2016.

  22. 22.

    Interview, Peter Moyle, 26 September 2018. See also: Trenham et al. 1998.

  23. 23.

    “Save the Delta,” “Congress Created Dust Bowl,” and “fish versus jobs and communities” are examples of social movement frames (Benford and Snow 2000). A comprehensive account of the conflict would inquire further into how these frames (which are not all unique to this context) were deployed to convene and mobilize constituencies.

  24. 24.

    Author’s field notes. Peter Moyle and Jason Baumsteiger, “Assessing Extinction in Fishes: Preparing for Extinction of Delta Smelt.” Delta Stewardship Council Brown Bag Lecture, Sacramento California. 4 August 2016.

References

  1. Alagona, P. S. (2013). After the grizzly: Endangered species and the politics of place in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Angelo, H. (2013). Bird in hand: how experience makes nature. Theory and Society, 42(4), 351–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Appuhn, K. (2009). A forest on the sea: Environmental expertise in renaissance Venice. Johns Hopkins University Press.

  4. Bailly, N. (2015). Salmo olidus Pallas, 1814. In R. Froese. and D. Pauly (Eds.). FishBase. Accessed through: World register of marine species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=306038. Accessed 16 Aug 2016.

  5. Bakker, K. J. (2010). Privatizing water: Governance failure and the world’s urban water crisis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Benford, R. D., & Snow, D. A. (2000). Framing processes and social movements: an overview and assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 611–639.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bijker, W. E. (2007). American and Dutch coastal engineering: differences in risk conception and differences in technological culture. Social Studies of Science, 37, 143–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bloor, D. (1999). Anti-Latour. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 30(1), 81–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Boxall, B. (2016). A Delta Tunnel Project’s lofty ambitions have been scaled Back. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-delta-pumps-20160404-story.html. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

  11. Bureau of Reclamation (2013). “Central Valley Project”. United States Bureau of Reclamation. United States Department of the Interior, 15 March 2013. http://www.usbr.gov/mp/2012_accomp_rpt/mpr_highlights.html. Accessed 16 Aug 2016.

  12. Callon, M. (1998). The embeddedness of economic markets in economics. In M. Callon (Ed.), The laws of the markets. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Campbell, J. K., O'Rourke, M., & Slater, M. H. (2011). Carving nature at its joints: Natural kinds in metaphysics and science. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Carroll, P. (2012). Water and technoscientific state formation in California. Social Studies of Science, 42(4), 489–516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Carroll-Burke, P. (2002). Material designs: engineering cultures and engineering states—Ireland 1650–1900. Theory and Society, 31(1), 75–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Chico Enterprise-Record (2015). Little fish could be Delta’s savior. Editorial. Chico Enterprise-Record, 13 January 2015. https://www.chicoer.com/2015/01/13/editorial-little-fish-could-be-deltassavior/. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

  17. Clark, F. N. (1928). The smelts of the San Pedro wholesale fish markets. California Fish and Game, 14(1), 16–21.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Clarke, C. (2014). Representative Devin Nunes versus the ‘stupid’ Delta smelt. KCET, February 2014. https://www.kcet.org/redefine/representative-devin-nunes-versus-the-stupid-delta-smelt. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

  19. Clausen, R., & York, R. (2008). Global biodiversity decline of marine and freshwater fish: a cross-national analysis of economic, demographic, and ecological influences. Social Science Research, 37(4), 1310–1320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Coad, B. W. (2010). Bibliography of Donald Evan McAllister. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 124(4), 336–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Colvin, J., & Knickmeyer, E. (2016). Trump vows to ‘open up the water’ in drought-stricken California. PBS, 27 May 2016. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-vows-to-open-up-the-water-indrought-stricken-california. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

  22. Cook, F. R., Coad, B. W., Renaud, C., Gruchy, C. G., & Alfonso, N. R. (2010). Donald Evan Mcallister, 1934–2001: the growth of ichthyological research at the National Museum of Canada/Canadian Museum of Nature. Canadian Field Naturalist, 124(4), 330–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Cronon, W. (1997). Nature’s metropolis: Chicago and the great west. New York: W.W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Dang, P. T. (2001). A tribute to Don E. Mcallister. Biodiversity, 2(3), 22–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Daston, L. (2012). The sciences of the archive. Osiris, 27(1), 156–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Department of Fish and Game (1966). Ecological studies of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: Part 2, Fishes of the Delta. Fish Bulletin 136. State of California Resources Agency Department of Fish and Game.

  27. Department of Fish and Wildlife (2016). Department of Fish and Game celebrates 130 years of serving California. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Publications/history. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.

  28. Department of the Interior (2003). Endangered Species Act of 1972 As Amended through the 108th Congress. https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/ESAall.pdf. Accessed 16 Aug 2016.

  29. Department of Water Resources (1961). Memorandum of understanding between water resources and fish and game regarding objectives and scope of Delta water project and fish and wildlife protection study, 10 August 1961.

  30. Department of Water Resources (2010). California State water project. California Department of Water Resources. State of California, 11 August 2010. https://water.ca.gov/Programs/State-Water-Project. Accessed 8 Dec 2014.

  31. Domínguez Rubio, F. (2016). On the discrepancy between objects and things: an ecological approach. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 59–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Doremus, H. (2010). The endangered species act: static law meets dynamic world. Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, 32, 175–235.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Driscoll Ed. (2011). I think we can safely say she’s still courting new media. PJ Media, 11 February 2011. https://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2011/2/5/i-think-we-can-safely-say-shes-courting-new-media. Accessed 10 Jan 2019.

  34. Drymond, J. R. (1964). A history of ichthyology in Canada. Copeia, 1, 2–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Dupré, J. (2002). Humans and other animals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Epstein, S. (2007). Inclusion: The politics of difference in medical research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Erkkila, L. F. (1950). Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishery resources: Effects of Tracy pumping plant and Delta cross channel. Washington: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Espeland, W. (1998). The struggle for water: Politics, rationality and identity in the American southwest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Evans, R., & Kay, T. (2008). How environmentalists ‘greened’ trade policy: strategic action and the architecture of field overlap. American Sociological Review, 73(6), 970–991.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Farrell, J. (2015). the battle for yellowstone: Morality and the sacred roots of environmental conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Finley, C. (2011). All the fish in the sea: Maximum sustainable yield and the failure of fisheries management. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Fleck, L. (1979). Genesis and development of a scientific fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Fligstein, N., & McAdam, D. (2012). A theory of fields. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. New York: Pantheon Books.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Foucault, M. (1984). What is enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault reader (pp. 32–50). New York: Pantheon Books.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Foucault, M. (2006). In J. D. Faubion (Ed.), Aesthetics, method, and epistemology. New York: New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Fourcade, M. (2011). Cents and sensibility: economic valuation and the nature of “nature”. American Journal of Sociology, 116(6), 1721–1777.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Hacking, I. (1991). A tradition of natural kinds. Philosophical Studies, 61(1991), 109–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Hacking, I. (1995). The looping effects of human kinds. Causal cognition: A multidisciplinary debate, pp. 351–394.

  51. Hacking, I. (1999). The social construction of what? Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Hacking, I. (2002). Historical ontology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Hacking, I. (2007). Natural kinds: Rosy Dawn, scholastic twilight. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 82(61), 203–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Halverson, A. (2010). An entirely synthetic fish: How rainbow trout beguiled America and overran the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Hamada, K. (1957). A new fish, Hypomesus sakhalinus new species, obtained from Lake Taraika, Sakhalin. 魚類学雑誌 5(3–6): 136–141.

  56. Hamada, K. (1961). Taxonomic and ecological studies of the genus Hypomesus of Japan. Memoirs of the Faculty of Fisheries Hokkaido University, 9(1), 1–55.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Hamilton, A. (Ed.). (2013). The evolution of phylogenetic systematics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Hannigan, J. A. (2006). Environmental Sociology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Heise, U. K. (2016). Imagining extinction: The cultural meanings of endangered species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Hennig, W. (1965). Phylogenetic systematics. Annual Review of Entomology, 10, 97–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Hoffmann, J. P. (2004). Social and environmental influences on endangered species: a cross-national study. Sociological Perspectives, 47(1), 79–107.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Horkheimer, M., & Adorno, T. W. (1972). Dialectic of enlightenment. New York: Herder and Herder.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Hubbs, C.L. (1925). A revision of the Osmerid fishes of the North Pacific. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, pp. 49–55.

  64. Hundley, N. (2001). The great thirst: Californians and water: A history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Jerolmack, C. (2008). How pigeons became rats: the cultural-spatial logic of problem animals. Social Problems, 55(1), 72–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Jerolmack, C., & Tavory, I. (2014). Molds and totems: nonhumans and the constitution of the social self. Sociological Theory, 32(1), 64–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Jordan, D. S., & Hubbs, C. L. (1922). Record of fishes obtained by David Starr Jordan in Japan. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Jordan, D.S., Tanaka, S., & Snyder, J.O. (1913). A catalogue of the fishes of Japan. Tokyo: Tokyo Imperial University.

  69. Kohler, R. E. (2013). All creatures: Naturalists, collectors, and biodiversity, 1850–1950. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Kohn, E. (2015). Anthropology of ontologies. Annual Review of Anthropology, 44(1), 311–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Kolbert, E. (2014). The sixth extinction: An unnatural history. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Krause, F. (2017). Towards an amphibious anthropology of Delta life. Human Ecology, 45(3), 403–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Krieger, L.M. (2015). Delta smelt almost gone, except in hatchery. Chico Enterprise-Record. 17 April 2015. https://www.chicoer.com/2015/04/17/delta-smelt-almost-gone-except-in-hatchery/. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

  74. Lakoff, A. (2016a). The indicator species: tracking ecosystem collapse in arid California. Public Culture, 28(2), 237–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Lakoff, A. (2016b). The zone of entrainment. Limn 7 https://limn.it/articles/the-zone-of-entrainment/.

  76. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1986). Laboratory life: The construction of scientific facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Lemke, T. (2015). New materialisms: foucault and the ‘government of things’. Theory, Culture and Society, 32(4), 3–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Linton, J. (2010). What is water? The history of a modern abstraction. Vancouver: UBC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Lund, J. R., Hanak, E., Fleenor, W. E., Mount, J. F., & Moyle, P. B. (2010). Comparing futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Lynch, M. (2013). Ontography: investigating the production of things, deflating ontology. Social Studies of Science, 43(3), 444–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. MacKenzie, D. (1976). Eugenics in Britain. Social Studies of Science, 6, 499–532.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Martin, L. J. (2018). Proving grounds: Ecological fieldwork in the Pacific and the materialization of ecosystems. Environmental History, 23(3), 567–592.

  84. McAllister, D. E. (1962). Review of: silent spring by Rachel Carson. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 76(4), 220–221.

    Google Scholar 

  85. McAllister, D.E. (1963). A revision of the smelt family, Osmeridae. National Museum of Canada Bulletin 191, Biological Series 71. Ottawa: Dept. of Northern Affairs and National Resources.

  86. McEvoy, A. F. (1990). The fisherman’s problem: Ecology and law in the California fisheries, 1850-1980. Cambridge University Press.

  87. Mosquin, T. (2002). Some reflections on the life and work of Don E. McAllister. Biodiversity, 3(1), 7–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. Moyle, P. B. (2002). Inland fishes of California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Moyle, P. (2015). Prepare for extinction of Delta smelt. California WaterBlog. UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, 18 March 2015. https://californiawaterblog.com/2015/03/18/prepare-for-extinction-of-delta-smelt/. Accessed 26 Feb 2017.

  90. Moyle, P., & Hobbs, J. (2017). California WaterFix and Delta smelt. California WaterBlog. 13 August 2017. https://californiawaterblog.com/2017/08/13/california-waterfix-and-delta-smelt/. Accessed 13 Aug 2017

  91. Mukerji, C. (2009). Impossible engineering: Technology and territoriality on the canal Du Midi. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Pinch, T. (2008). Technology and institutions: living in a material world. Theory and Society, 37(5), 461–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  93. Plater, Z. J. B. (2013). The snail darter and the dam: How pork-barrel politics endangered a little fish and killed a river. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Porter, T. M. (1995). Trust in numbers: the pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton University Press.

  95. Pritchard, S. B. (2011). Confluence: The nature of technology and the remaking of the Rhône. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  96. Quinton, A. (2016). Delta smelt populations plummet 2nd year in a row. Capital Public Radio. 3 July 2016. http://www.capradio.org/articles/2016/03/07/delta-smelt-populations-plummet-2nd-year-in-arow/. Accessed 18 Aug 2016.

  97. Reisner, M. (1993). Cadillac desert: The American west and its disappearing water. New York: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Restore the Delta (2017). So what is your solution? Restore the Delta. http://www.restorethedelta.org/so-what-is-your-solution/. Accessed 12 Feb 2018.

  99. Restore the Delta (2018). Delta Smelt Spawning March: March for the Delta. https://restorethedelta.wixsite.com/deltasmeltmarch. Accessed 23 Mar 2018.

  100. Ritvo, H. (1997). The platypus and the mermaid, and other figments of the classifying imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Ruyak, B. (2015). UC Davis fish biologist: Delta smelt ‘functionally extinct’. Capital Public Radio. 18 March 2015. http://www.capradio.org/news/insight/2015/03/18/insight-031815b/. Accessed 18 Aug 2016.

  102. Sayes, E. (2014). Actor–network theory and methodology: Just what does it mean to say that nonhumans have agency? Social Studies of Science, 44(1), 134–149.

  103. Scofield, W.L. (1935). “Fisheries statistics: achievements through flexibility” in “commercial fish catch of California for the years 1930–1944, inclusive”. Fish Bulletin 44. Division of Fish & Game, pp. 8–13.

  104. Scott, J. C. (1999). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  105. Siders, D. (2016). Carly Fiorina doubles down on Delta smelt. The Sacramento Bee. 30 April 2016. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article74978877.html. Accessed 18 August 2016.

  106. Sismondo, S. (2004). An introduction to science and technology studies. Malden: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  107. Skinner, J.E. (1962). An historical review of the fish and wildlife resources of the San Francisco Bay Area. California Department of Fish and Game, Water Project Branch Report 1.

  108. Stafleu, F.A., & Cowan, R (1983). Taxonomic literature: A selective guide to botanical publications and collections with dates, commentaries and types. Vol. 4. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/33189495#page/34/mode/1up. Accessed 16 Aug 2016.

  109. Stanley, S. E., Moyle, P. B., & Bradley Shaffer, H. (1995). Allozyme analysis of Delta smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus and longfin smelt, Spirinchus Thaleichthys in the Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, California. Copeia, 1995(2), 390–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  110. Star, S. L., & Griesemer, J. R. (1989). Institutional ecology, ‘translations’ and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–39. Social Studies of Science, 19(3), 387–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  111. Swyngedouw, E. (2004). Social power and the urbanization of water: Flows of power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  112. Taylor, J. E., III. (1999). Making Salmon: An environmental history of the northwest fisheries crisis. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

    Google Scholar 

  113. Thayer, R. L. (2003). Lifeplace: Bioregional thought and practice. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  114. Trenham, P. C., Bradley Shaffer, H., & Moyle, P. B. (1998). Biochemical identification and assessment of population subdivision in morphologically similar native and invading smelt species (Hypomesus) in the Sacramento–San Joaquin estuary, California. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 127(3), 417–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  115. Uexküll, J. (2010). A foray into the worlds of animals and humans: With a theory of meaning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  116. Unger, Z. (2016). California’s Delta: On the front lines of the State’s water issues. Breakthroughs: the Magazine of the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, Winter, 2016. https://nature.berkeley.edu/breakthroughs/wt16/californias-delta-on-the-frontlines-of-the-stateswater-issues. Accessed 10 Jan 2019.

  117. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2016). Section 7 Explanation.” Department of the Interior. 25 Feb. 2016. Web. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/section7/section7.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2016

  118. Vidal, F., & Dias, N. (Eds.). (2016). Endangerment, biodiversity and culture. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  119. Wales, J. H. (1962). Introduction of pond smelt from Japan into California. California Fish & Game, 48(2), 141.

    Google Scholar 

  120. Wall Street Journal (2009). California’s man-made drought. Editorial. Wall Street Journal. 2 September 2009.

  121. Wilkins, J. S. (2009). Defining species: A sourcebook from antiquity to today. New York: P. Lang.

    Google Scholar 

  122. Worster, D. (1985). Rivers of empire: Water, aridity, and the growth of the American west. New York: Pantheon Books.

    Google Scholar 

  123. Worster, D. (1992). Under Western skies: Nature and history in the American west. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The research presented in this article was partially supported with funding from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Study of Law & Society’s Berkeley Empirical Studies Fellowship. I am deeply indebted to Razvan Amironesei, Rebecca Elliott, Neil Fligstein, Marion Fourcade, Andrew Lakoff, and John Lie for their detailed comments. I acknowledge additional helpful comments during various stages of this project by Irene Bloemraad, Boroka Bo, Jonah Stuart Brundage, Michael Burawoy, Olivier Clain, Alex DiBranco, Cyrus Dioun, Holly Doremus, Martin Eiermann, Michel Estefan, Julian Fulton, Isabel García, Pat Hastings, Jacob Hellman, Andrew Jaeger, Xuan Jin, Sunmin Kim, Daniel N. Kluttz, Michael Kowen, Joe Labriola, Santiago Molina, Calvin Morrill, Richard Norgaard, Michelle Phillips, Alex Roehrkasse, Nina Golec Scoville, Ike Sharpless, Benjamin Shestakofsky, Mary Shi, Sameer Srivastava, Matthew J. Stimpson, Adam Storer, Ann Swidler, Byron Villacis, Richard Walker, and Uğur Yıldırım. The Editors and reviewers at Theory and Society, as well as anonymous reviewers in a previous review process, were also very helpful. All errors are my own. Earlier versions of this work were presented at the 2016 Genial and Ephemeral Meeting in Sociology, the Center for Culture, Organizations, and Politics workshop in 2017, and the 2017 conference, “The Hydraulic Society, Revisited,” all at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the “Politics, Ethics, Ontology” seminar at the University of California, San Diego in 2016, and the 2017 meeting of the American Sociological Association in Montréal.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caleb Scoville.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Scoville, C. Hydraulic society and a “stupid little fish”: toward a historical ontology of endangerment. Theor Soc 48, 1–37 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-019-09339-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Biological classification
  • California water
  • Endangered species
  • Environmental politics
  • Human-nonhuman relations
  • Taxonomic science