Adaptive Epistemologies: Conceptualizing Change in the Field of Ecological Restoration

Authors: Shana Hirsch*, University of Idaho
Topics: Natural Resources, Environment, Cultural Geography
Keywords: ecological restoration, climate change, STS, environmental management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ecological restoration of salmon habitat in the Columbia River Basin is recognized as being a critical tool for meeting mandates to recover ESA listed populations. It is also a key strategy for mitigating the impacts from climate change, which are expected to intensify as most watersheds experience a shift from high-elevation precipitation in the form of snow to rain, raising water temperatures to levels dangerous to salmon. Yet how does the complex network of scientists, engineers, practitioners, and policy-makers involved in ecological restoration adapt their scientific practices to confront climate change? The transformation—or adaptation—of the science of ecological restoration and the scientific infrastructure that supports it will have important and measurable impacts on the ways in which natural resource managers and scientists respond to climate change. While knowledge is considered a key component of adaptive socio-ecological systems, these relationships have not been explored or articulated in detail. This ethnographic study includes over forty interviews with salmon habitat restorationists, policy-makers, and scientists, as well as participant observation at workshops and conferences, and historical and policy analysis to understand the strategies that scientists use to deal with climate change have emerged in the field. The study concludes that it is critical to consider “adaptive epistemologies” and the role of changing scientific virtues, culture, practices, and institutions in order to manage socio-environmental systems for adaptation to environmental and social change. The conceptual framework develops the concepts of emergence, abduction, and anticipation to describe these adaptive strategies.

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