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Interview with Lawrence Bliss, October 9, 2012

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:41 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: So the first part of this is about you and your history.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss talks about knowing that he wanted to go to college at a very young age and about how he originally wanted to be a doctor. He went to Kent State University and majored in biology, and later went to Duke University where he met his mentor H. J Oosting. Bliss discusses working with Dwight Bliss in Wyoming doing research for his thesis comparing arctic and alpine tundras.

Keywords: Alaska; North Carolina; Ohio State University; botany; tobacco plants; zoology

00:12:26 - Employment in teaching and research

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Partial Transcript: During the course of that time period, I realized that when I get through, assuming I can finish up with a thesis and do a reasonable job, I am going to need some employment opportunities.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss talks about his job teaching at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, saying that he didn't like the way that the chairman of the biology department made them teach. His mentor at Duke, H. J Oosting, later got him a job at the University of Illinois, where he started teaching in 1958. Bliss recalls his job interview at the University of Illinois, where he talked about research that he did in Alaska. Bliss also mentions work he has done at the University of Alberta and the University of Washington before his retirement in 1997.

Keywords: Dwight Billings; Ecological Monographs; Russia; Siberia

00:29:10 - Development of the field of ecology

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Partial Transcript: Alright, so let me lay this out, in terms of getting you to talk about how ecology developed as a discipline.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss discusses the time period between the 1950s and 1960s when ecology began to come together and combine plant and animal ecology. He talks about Eugene Odum who played a major role in shaping this paradigm shift, through publication of his textbook, Fundamentals of Ecology.

Keywords: Duke University; Dwight Billings; University of Georgia; University of Washington; alpine; arctic; ecosystem studies

00:36:20 - International Biological Program High Arctic Study

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Partial Transcript: Now that period of time in the mid 60s was also IBP.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss talks about how the International Biological Program (IBP) was formed to organize ecosystem studies. Bliss discusses leading a study for the IBP, for which he sent a group of people to study the muskox over the winter in the Canadian arctic.

Keywords: Devon Island; Eastern Canada; Edmonton; U.S national committee

00:50:33 - Motivations to study the arctic

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Partial Transcript: Let's take a side trip here for just a second.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss says that he was interested in studying the alpines and the arctic because they were new and interesting places that no one had really studied before. He also talks about how the study of ecology is increasingly becoming more specialized over time, whereas it used to be very broad.

Keywords: Olympic National Forest; ecosystem studies; grad students

00:54:51 - Development of the ESA

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Partial Transcript: The last one for the this part of the session will be the development of the Ecological Society of America as an organization.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss talks about some of the ESA's early presidents: A.G Vestal and Victor Shelford. He also discusses the AIBS (American Institute of Biological Science), saying that the ESA was much more aligned with AIBS in the beginning.

Keywords: Chicago; Duke University; University of Illinois; research funding

01:05:50 - ESA Presidency

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Partial Transcript: Alright, and now you start becoming involved with the Ecological Society. You were a member at large in '66 and '67, but then you became the vice president in '76.

Segment Synopsis: Bliss discusses his ESA presidency and talks about his efforts to open the ESA's Washington office. He talks about the first director of the Washington office, whom he says wasn't very good at his job, but says that the Washington office was very successful after he left.

Keywords: Eugene Odum; Washington, D.C