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Interview with William Reiners, October 20, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:01 - Early interests in ecology

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Partial Transcript: To begin with, would you describe how you became interested in ecology.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about his early interests in ecology, saying that he visited his family farm often and went hunting with his father which developed his interest in nature. He went to Knox College, where he started off as a biology major thinking he would become a doctor. While at Knox College, he met ecologist Paul Shepard from whom he became interested in natural history and ecology.

Keywords: G. Hutchinson; Paul Sears; ROTC; Tom Murphy; art history; music appreciation; plant ecology; prairie fires; rural life; wrestling

00:12:10 - Graduate school at Rutgers

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Partial Transcript: It turns out that Paul, even though he had this Hutchinsonian kind of background, he taught the first course in ecology from Eugene Odum's first book Fundamentals of Ecology.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about how through Paul Shepard's ecology course he became interested in conservation ecology and range management. Reiners considered going to Utah State to work with Lincoln Ellison, but Ellison never replied. Reiners ended up going to Rutgers to study with Murray Buell and George Woodwell, where he learned about plant ecology and ecosystem analysis. Reiners recalls accepting a job offer at the University of Minnesota, even though he had six months of work left for his dissertation.

Keywords: Brookhaven National Laboratory; John F. Kennedy; ROTC; Shurb Synosia; William Cooper; ecosystem ecology; pine barrens; range systems

00:29:13 - Working at the University of Minnesota

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Partial Transcript: So there we were in December of 1963, going to go to Minnesota.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses moving to Minnesota with his wife to join their botany department, where he met Don Lawrence and Eville Gorham and became interested in biogeochemisty. He also recalls writing a proposal for an National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to do research in the Cedar Creek Natural History Area (Minnesota), which was accepted.

Keywords: Carnegie Institute; Dan Livingston; John Hopkins University; William Cooper; succession

00:37:33 - Working at Dartmouth College

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Partial Transcript: Well, I guess a I learned a lot teaching and got going doing research at Cedar Creek Natural History Area and one day I got a letter from Dartmouth College asking if I would apply for a position of plant ecology at Dartmouth College.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses being asked to apply for a position at Dartmouth College. While at Dartmouth, he created a course in biogeochemistry with Gene Likens, and another course in terrestrial ecosystems. Reiners also talks about taking a sabbatical tp study cloud droplets at the University of New Mexico, and discusses a long term study of the vegetation at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (New Hampshire). Reiners also praises his first graduate student, Peter Vitousek, who organized a meeting that led to a study about nitrate output following a disturbance in forests.

Keywords: Cape Cod; Cary Institute; Cornell University; Eugene Odum; Gary Lovett; Heine Oosting; Indiana; Jerry Lang; Jim Gosz; John Montieth; New Hampshire; Oregon; Rutgers University; West Virginia University; William Schlesinger; deforestation

00:58:49 - Moving to Wyoming

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Partial Transcript: I started to say, I'd been in a sabbatical to New Mexico and the West was beckoning.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about how he went to Wyoming to give a seminar and thought that he would be much happier there. He applied for an opening at the University of Wyoming, and moved his family there in 1983. He became the plant ecology department head and carried his research over from New Hampshire.

Keywords: Dartmouth University; Dennis Knight; Joan Wadlow; New Hampshire; New Mexico; Rich Olsen

01:09:16 - Administrative experiences / Sabbaticals at Wyoming

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Partial Transcript: I think I want to sort of stay on one topic for a moment and just talk about my administrative experiences here.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses his administrative experiences as the department head at Wyoming including: funding shortages, being the chair of the presidential search committee, being the first director of the Wyoming National Diversity Database, and leading the reformation of the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center. Reiners also talks about taking sabbaticals to Berlin and Santa Barbara where he learned GIS (geographic information systems) skills.

Keywords: International Geosphere Biosphere Program; Ken Driese; LaSelva; Terry Roark; Tom Buchanan; UC-Santa Barbara; paleoecology

01:20:37 - Research at Wyoming

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Partial Transcript: Now I'd like to just sort of talk about research themes during this period of time.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses several of the research projects he participated in while at the University of Wyoming, starting with the research he carried over from New Hampshire up to the present day. Some of the projects he mentioned included: tropical work studying the ecosystems in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, and doing gap analysis work (a conservation approach of identifying and mapping gaps in conservation lands) with Evelyn Merrill to determine "environments of most concern" to effectively preserve species.

Keywords: Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes; Bioscience; Carlos Martinez; Dick Holmes; GIS; Henry Gholz; Hubbard Brook; Jeff Lockwood; Ken Driese; La Selva; Melon Foundation; Mike Keller; NASA; Organization of Tropical Studies; Pam Matson; Peter Vitousek; Rob Thruston; Shuang Liu; acid raid; earth system science; greenhouse gases; methane; remote sensing; sagebrush steppe

01:46:25 - Teaching at Wyoming / Philosophy for mentoring graduate students

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Partial Transcript: Well that brings us up pretty much up to date as far as research is concerned. I don't want to neglect the fact that I taught here.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about how he did not like teaching the general ecology course at the University of Wyoming, but he loved teaching the field ecology course. He also discusses his philosophy for mentoring graduate students, saying that it was modeled after Murray Buell's teaching style. He talks about the importance of also training students as writers.

Keywords: Ethiopia; G. Hutchinson; GIS; Ken Driese; Rutgers University; Steve Praeger; modeling; remote sensing; statistics

01:56:46 - Development of landscape ecology

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Partial Transcript: I'd like you talk a little bit more about landscape ecology.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses the development of landscape ecology, saying that the modeling done in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory made the subject more theoretical, but that it has started to become more practical again. He also talks about learning about landscape ecology through Murray Buell's geoecology course.

Keywords: Jean Langenheim; Monica Turner; Steve Praeger; William Cooper; mapping; topology; transport processes

02:03:39 - Philosophical Foundations for the Practices of Ecology

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Partial Transcript: We'll resume this third segment, probably the last segment, of this oral history with Bill Reiners. Bill one of your most recent books is on the philosophical foundations of ecology.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners discusses writing the book, Philosophical Foundations for the Practices of Ecology, with Jeffery Lockwood. He talks about how every ecologist has a different perspective and a different view on nature.

Keywords: Ecological Applications; Ecosphere; Frontiers; philosophy; pragmatism

02:12:54 - Survey of ecologists / Changes in ecology discipline

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Partial Transcript: Would you say, as a result of writing that book with Jeff, would you say that ecology is a cohesive science?

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about how his book with Lockwood led to survey work to find out what ecologists think about ecology. He also discusses the ways in which ecology has changed over the years, saying that it has become broader and more analytical. He also says that the training of ecologists has changed in the last twenty years, noting how sociological aspects of ecology have gained importance.

Keywords: ESA Centennial 2015; Feminism; SEEDS; Washington office; public affairs office

02:24:29 - Development of the ESA

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Partial Transcript: Now we can certainly emerge into thinking about the trends in the Ecological Society of America as well.

Segment Synopsis: Reiners talks about how the membership of ESA has leveled off as a result of open access to journals making membership in the ESA not longer a requirement. He also notes how young graduates are diffusing into other aspects of the profession of ecology. Reiners concludes by saying that he has enjoyed his career immensely.

Keywords: America Geophysical Union; University of Wyoming