Arts and Humanities Efforts in the US Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Understanding Perceived Values and Challenges

  • Lissy GoralnikEmail author
  • Michael Paul Nelson
  • Leslie Ryan
  • Hannah Gosnell
Part of the Ecology and Ethics book series (ECET, volume 2)


Calls for interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem-solving are common across the biophysical and social sciences. Recently, some of these collaborations have incorporated the creative arts and humanities, including projects across the 24 sites of the US Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) network. A substantial body of artistic and written work has been produced by LTER-affiliated sites. However, there has been no systematic analysis of this work. We used a cross-site, social scientific analysis to understand the extent and nature of arts and humanities inquiry in the LTER network and to assess perceptions about the values and challenges associated with it. We found that 19 of the 24 LTER sites agree or strongly agree that arts and humanities inquiry is important and relevant for the sites. Perceived values of this work include its goodness in and of itself, as well as its ability to foster outreach and public involvement and to inspire creative thinking. Contrarily, participants identified funding, available labor, and available expertise as limiting factors in the growth of arts and humanities inquiry in the LTER network. Respondents highlighted themes relevant to the relationship between ecological science and ethics, including participants’ willingness to accept fostering empathy, an identified value of arts and humanities inquiry, as pertinent to LTER network goals and research on some level. This ethical potential of arts and humanities inquiry in the LTER network provides an opportunity to bridge ecological research with arts and humanities inquiry in ways that are meaningful for Earth stewardship.


Empathy Ethics Ecology Interdisciplinary Intrinsic value Place-based 



This research was supported by Long Term Ecological Research Network subaward grant 976021-874U-2 from the University of New Mexico (NSF Prime award # 0936498). We obtained approval from Oregon State University Institutional Review Board (project #5827). Omar Barroso helped with Fig. 16.4. The authors would like to acknowledge support from the HJ Andrews LTER program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB 0823380), as well as LTER colleagues Fred Swanson and Mary Beth Leigh.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lissy Goralnik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Paul Nelson
    • 1
  • Leslie Ryan
    • 1
  • Hannah Gosnell
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecosystems and SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Geography, Environmental Sciences, and Marine Resource Management, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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