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 ES Home > Vol. 6, No. 2 > Art. 19

Copyright © 2002 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance.

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Gunderson, L., C. Folke, M. Lee, and C. S. Holling. 2002. In memory of mavericks. Conservation Ecology 6(2): 19. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/art19/


In Memory of Mavericks

Lance Gunderson1, Carl Folke2, Michelle Lee3, and C. S. Holling4

1Emory University2Stockholm University3The Resilience Alliance4University of Florida

Published: December 30, 2002


The word "maverick" is derived from Samuel Maverick, a Texas cattleman who lived during the mid-1800s. He gathered unbranded cattle from the free range and branded them as his own. Hence, unbranded cattle were referred to as "mavericks." Originally a political term, the word is now used to describe someone who takes an independent stand or is different from others, with just a touch of wildness. We like to think of Conservation Ecology as a maverick journal and its contributions as maverick ideas. However, that will be evaluated by future scholars. This editorial, as well as the second issue of the sixth volume of Conservation Ecology, is dedicated to the memory of two maverick scholars who changed the field of ecology in the 20th century.

We are referring, of course, to two giants of ecology, Eugene P. Odum and Howard T. Odum, who passed away in August and September of 2002. These two brothers were not only among the first to educate generations of scholars and the public about ecology but also pioneers in uniting the human and social aspects of environmental issues with their ecological and natural dimensions. The work of the Odums in the field of ecosystem ecology laid the foundations for the integrated, interdisciplinary approaches and scholarship featured in Conservation Ecology.

In an accompanying essay, Lee and Holling pay tribute to a lesser-known figure of systems ecology, Ralf Yorque, by announcing the winners of the first Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition and by describing plans to continue the competition in the future. Gunderson and Folke will return to the Odum memorial following a brief description of the contents of this issue.


The current issue of Conservation Ecology contains a diverse set of contributions that range from those dominated by a strongly ecologic flavor to those that explore the human dimensions of environmental problems. The ecological contributions include reports on the role of fires in maintaining populations (Odion and Taylor) and in ecosystems (Lertzman et al.). Another study examines the interactions between extinction risk and disturbances in successional landscapes (Boughton and Malvadkar), which was part of an earlier issue on extinction research. Landscape connectivity and fragmentation are the subjects of articles by D'Eon et al. and Bissonette and Storch. McClanahan et al. synthesize knowledge about ecological states and the resilience of coral reefs. Three papers assess the efficacy of different techniques: Bawa et al. examine the role of remote sensing in biodiversity conservation, Poulin et al. analyze the reliability of habitat maps of peatland vegetation derived from satellite imagery, and Carlson and Schmiegelow present cost-effective sampling designs for monitoring bird populations over large areas.

Many of the manuscripts in this issue deal with planning-related activities in resource management. Sheil and Wunder carry out a critical assessment of estimates of the value of tropical forests to local communities. Gillison presents a computer-aided survey technique in his entry in the Ralf Yorque competition. Stinchcombe et al. discuss whether the academic literature on conservation biology has influenced the recovery planning process for endangered species. Hull et al. examine the effects of assumptions of scale and precepts of nature on making environmental decisions. Roux et al. discuss conservation planning approaches in South Africa in their insight paper, and Steinham et al. integrate science and natural resource management in the managed recession of a lake in Florida. Several new books are reviewed that deal with environmental issues related to the use of chemical pesticides, sustainable agriculture, and infectious diseases. Although we still have a long way to go toward resolving many of the large environmental issues of our day, we would not be quite so far along the way had it not been for the sizeable contributions of the Odum brothers in the 20th century.


With the passing of E. P. and H. T. Odum, a remarkable era in ecology ended. In response to Aldo Leopold's contention that we need to "think like a mountain" to understand ecology, the Odums would have argued that we need think like a system. Their world view was one of systems, i.e., components, connections, and complexity. They fought long and hard to develop a science that was not just about dissecting and understanding parts, but about understanding and unraveling the dynamics of the whole. Both were deep and erudite scholars, hard-nosed scientists, and creative thinkers. The breadth and depth of their knowledge were formidable and inspiring.

Their importance to society was often acknowledged during their lifetimes. They rode the wave of social change in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and brought concerns about the environment out of academia and into the public consciousness. During that period, ecologists, including E. P. Odum and our founding editor, C. S. Holling, were dubbed "the new Jeremiahs" by Time for their gloom and doom predictions about the future. Nevertheless, because of their efforts, the ecological underpinnings of society gained wider recognition in the 1970s. In 1973, the Odum brothers were awarded the Institut de la Vie prize for ecology by the French government. In 1987, they were joint recipients of the first Crafoord Prize in Ecology from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, the highest honor that can be bestowed in environmental science. E. P. Odum was named one of the top 10 most influential people in the state of Georgia during the 20th century. H. T. Odum had a similar impact on policy at the state levels in Florida and Texas.

One of Conservation Ecology's present editors, Lance Gunderson, attended a memorial service for H. T. Odum this past October after first meeting him almost 30 yr ago as a graduate research assistant. The service was a marvelous tribute to an amazing person. Many generations of his students spoke of his influence and stature as a genius. His maverick role and novel ideas separated him from his brother, who was always acknowledged as more mainstream. H. T. coined so many new words and phrases, such as "eMergy," "emjoules," "self-organization," and "self-design," that the scholarly community will spend years uncovering their meanings. He was the living example of his most famous theorem: the maximum power principle. Even though ill health forced him to spend his last few years in retirement, it seemed as if he were still publishing a book a year. Until 2002, H. T. remained a fountain of energy and ideas; he always maximized power.

The Odum brothers have inspired ecologists worldwide and will certainly continue to do so. Classic books such as Eugene's Fundamentals of Ecology (the fifth edition will be released next year 50 yr after the first) and Ecology and Our Endangered Life-support Systems (1989), and H. T.'s Environment, Power and Society (1971) and Systems Ecology: an Introduction (1983) are essential cornerstones in ecology and foundations for interdisciplinary work and developments in fields such as ecological economics. The Odum brothers are the intellectual sources behind ecosystem science and the ecosystem approach that has spread from science into numerous local and regional policy arenas and international conventions. In Sweden, their innovative approach triggered the development of the Askö Laboratory in the Baltic Sea as well as marine ecosystem ecology and the development of systems ecology research and teaching. Conservation Ecology's other editor (Carl Folke) often met with H. T. as a graduate student when he was visiting his friends Bengt-Owe and AnnMari Jansson. H. T. Odum played a key role in the first meeting between ecologists and economists outside of Stockholm, a meeting organized by the Janssons and Karl-Göran Mäler of the Beijer Institute, with participants such as Herman Daly and Robert Costanza (Jansson 1984)

H. T.'s wide-ranging interests, curiosity about new thinking and new ideas, and support and concern for young scholars were remarkable. His research group in Gainesville attracted top scholars from all over the United States and other nations as well. When H. T. turned 70, his former students and collaborators produced a volume in his honor, Maximum Power, edited by Charles Hall (1995). Frank Golley (1993) published a book on the history of the ecosystem approach that reflects on the essential contribution of the Odum brothers.

The joint Odum legacy is a substantive foundation for current and future generations seeking to confront the pressing environmental issues of the next decades: global climate change, changing energy sources, loss of biodiversity, and the suite of human issues associated with sustainability. Thanks to them for bringing us as far as we have come. However, the next paths are ours to define. The glimpses ahead by the "newer" Jeremiahs that are helping to define and seek sustainable futures are the fodder for Conservation Ecology. More importantly, these futures will require novelty, creativity, and alternative approaches. Those are the underpinnings of the "happy" part of our memorial issue: the Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition. Michelle Lee and Buzz Holling describe the competition, the rationale behind it, and the results in the following essay.


The first Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition has now come to an end. It was designed to help foster discovery, innovation, and originality by seeking manuscripts that would effectively and imaginatively use the World Wide Web to communicate complex policy ideas or scientific conclusions. Seven manuscripts were submitted for the contest, and five of those passed the peer-review process. A committee of five judges deliberated and voted on the five articles accepted to determine the winners of the prize.

Two submissions, one by Graeme Cumming (2002) and one by Garry Peterson (2002), were chosen as the first winners of the Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition. Both are substantive pieces that make excellent use of the dynamic nature of the Web and provide significant contributions to our understanding and management of complex systems. The committee found it difficult to choose between them, because Cumming's paper presents wonderful simplifications of complex phenomena and uses the Web very effectively. Peterson, on the other hand, deals with a fundamental advance in understanding the resilience of ecosystems and uses graphic movies generated by computer models to discover news insights. As a result, these submissions are both very good but also very different. The committee decided to grant them each first place by splitting the $5000 prize equally.

However, the Ralf Yorque competition was more than just a competition. It was also a way to discover where we are and where we should go. Consider our history since we started Conservation Ecology seven years ago.

Conservation Ecology began during an era of cuts to library funding at North American universities and mounting subscription costs for peer-reviewed journals. In recognition that the restriction of access to research journals was preventing important ecological information from reaching its intended audience, Conservation Ecology was established as a free and highly accessible source of peer-reviewed scientific and policy literature. The solution seemed simple: use newly developed Internet and e-mail technologies rather than the slower and more expensive printing process to disseminate research. By using computer software to automate the peer-review and publishing processes and by publishing exclusively online, Conservation Ecology could keep its costs low and offer the journal free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection.

Shortly after Conservation Ecology's inaugural issue, it became apparent that the Web medium was superior to the print medium in more ways than just lower costs and greater accessibility. The Internet afforded an almost limitless opportunity for creative communication, data could be presented in more effective and interesting ways that catered to the type of information presented, animated models could be used to show projected change over time more effectively than still photographs, models and data could be downloaded for testing and use, and readers could interact with the data presented in an article in ways that they never could with the print medium.

It didn't take long for authors to recognize the benefits associated with publishing in Conservation Ecology. Many authors cited their desire to publish in CE primarily because it allowed them greater flexibility in presenting their research than do regular print journals. Some authors are including in the appendices of their articles data sets that can be downloaded and manipulated by the user, whereas others are taking advantage of the inexpensive use of color to present satellite images and photos. A few authors have ventured even further, such as Robert Costanza, whose article published in 2000 contained an online, interactive survey and a continuously updated chart of the survey results.

Signs that Conservation Ecology readers as well as contributors had begun to recognize and appreciate the value of the online medium were also apparent. Steve Carpenter's 1999 article, which includes a downloadable model, is still one of the journal's most requested papers; responses submitted using the online response form continue to pour in weekly. Most promising of all is the fact that all efforts to incorporate reader feedback, like the response feature in regular articles and the young scholar dialogue, have been increasingly successful.

Now, with seven years of experience under our belts, we have time to evaluate the extent to which we have taken advantage of the potential of the Web medium. Even though the very existence of Conservation Ecology was cutting edge seven years ago, the world of the Internet and e-mail technology has since changed substantially. Most conventional print journals now have an online presence and offer pdf or html versions of their articles to paid subscribers. New Internet technologies such as SGML, Cold Fusion, and Flash offer more advanced ways to archive, access, and display information on the Web. A large body of research now exists on the subject of which technologies have contributed to improved communication, and which can actually hinder navigation and understanding (e.g., Raney et al. 2002, Rajani and Rosenberg 1999). In light of these technological changes, we at the journal began to ask ourselves: has Conservation Ecology made the most of the communication possibilities of the Internet? If not, what steps should CE take to maximize our potential as an innovative online publication?

According to Thom Lieb, contributing editor to the Journal of Electronic Publishing, most online journals are finding themselves at a similar crossroads. In a recent article (2002), he lamented that "... even the best-designed online journals and other publications ... have done little in the last five years to exploit the strengths of this new medium." Shortly before Thom Lieb published his comments in the JEP, Buzz Holling, Conservation Ecology's Editor-in-Chief at the time, recognized that most of the CE's published articles were not as innovative in their presentation as they could be. Determined to get to the root of the problem, the editors and staff decided to embark on a mission to encourage the submission of articles that made creative use of the Internet to communicate scientific information. This initiative was called the Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition. The winner of the competition would receive a $5000 prize for the most innovative contribution that used the Web imaginatively.

With great anticipation and optimism, we awaited the submission of articles that would push the envelope in electronic publishing. Even if only a tiny fraction of our more than 10,000 subscribers submitted an entry, we would be inundated with submissions. When only seven articles were submitted by the closing date, we pointed to a lack of advertising as the culprit. However, on closer inspection of the the submissions, we decided that perhaps there were some deeper processes at work. The nature of the entries revealed that we did not communicate the competition requirements clearly enough. Of the five submissions accepted for publication, two authors wrote about the topic of the competition, i.e., the use of the Internet to communicate scientific information, rather than actually using novel Internet tools to communicate information. It is also quite possible that our expectations extended well beyond the expertise or time available to the average researcher. How many researchers are actively engaged in novel ways to present their data or have had found the time to learn how to use the necessary software?

Possibly the greatest influence limiting the competition to seven submissions was the print-focused mindset of most researchers. Because most research journals are still using print as the primary medium, many authors may not yet have made the mindset shift required to the more fluid and interactive nature of the Internet (Ferris 2002). All of these hypotheses lead to one conclusion: to publish more creative papers, Conservation Ecology would have to become more involved with the authors, offering both incentives and support in the initial manuscript submission stages and the review process.

Despite the small number of Ralf Yorque submissions, the papers that were submitted proved to be innovative bodies of research that will pave the way for future competitions. Quite a few of the submissions took advantage of the competition to display colorful simulation model input and output. In their article, William Hargrove et al. (2002) describe and demonstrate the output of a fractal landscape realizer that can be used to generate input maps for simulation models. Graeme Cumming (2002) focuses on the use of simulation models to predict the effects of habitat shape on the rate and magnitude of invasion by alien species. Garry Peterson (2002) uses complex landscape simulation models to estimate resilience.

The remaining two competition articles parallel the goals of the Ralf Yorque Competition by showing how to use the Internet to communicate scientific information. Jonathan Adams et al. (2002) describe their experiences trying to take advantage of the Internet to communicate conservation information in their article about ConserveOnline and Fortaleza. Finally, our latest submission to this year's contest, Andy Gillison's study of a generic, computer-assisted method for the rapid classification and surveying of vegetation (2002), makes use of Conservation Ecology itself as a medium to describe and make available other free, open-source tools for ecosystem research and management. The article contains supporting information on two downloadable Web-based tools for teaching survey and classification methods and data management and analysis.

Perhaps the most important lesson revealed by the Ralf Yorque Memorial Competition was the discovery that, for the first time, our imaginations had outstripped our software capabilities. The limitations of using a publishing software program that was created by 1997 and had not been substantially updated since to manage innovative manuscripts in 2001 rendered the competition a challenge not only to authors but also to those staff responsible for keeping the peer-review and publishing processes running smoothly. Originally designed to automatically convert manuscript submissions containing plain text and still graphics into html format, post the submission online, and then automatically notify editors and reviewers of the new submission, the system buckled when confronted with submissions containing JavaScript, hypertext mark-up language (html), and animated movies. The irony of having a system designed only to generate html files as the final product and incapable of recognizing html format as the input file type did not escape us. The time-consuming and complicated nature of moving a manuscript through the peer review system without the help of the journal software revealed how dependent we had become on it, and made us realize that we had to expand the software's flexibility to accommodate new article formats if we wanted to encourage innovation and change.

To make our journal system more responsive to the new and ever-growing demands of computer-savvy authors and readers, editors and staff at Conservation Ecology are planning a number of monumental changes. First, we are working to simplify the manuscript submission process and increase the number of file types accepted for submission.

More importantly, one of our innovative editors, Marco Janssen, has offered 5000 Euro per year from the Foundation of Scientific Symbiosis (www.scientificsymbiosis.org) to make the Ralf Yorque competition an annual event. The present permanent competition and our invitation to authors are described at www.consecol.org/Journal/ads/announcements/ry2003.html. Authors, please think about the opportunity and the sheer fun of exploring a new medium for communicating science and policy research.

By working closely with authors to encourage and cultivate innovative manuscript submissions, we hope to create a more dynamic and interactive forum for the presentation and discussion of scientific and social scientific information. We invite you to join us in the challenge to push electronic publishing into a new realm of research communication.


Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a comment, follow this link. To read comments already accepted, follow this link.


Adams, J., C. Brugger, Y. L. Ding, and M. Flores. 2002. Conserveonline and Fortaleza: sharing conservation success and failure on the internet. Conservation Ecology 6(1): 7. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art7.

Carpenter, S., W. Brock, and P. Hanson. 1999. Ecological and social dynamics in simple models of ecosystem management. Conservation Ecology 3(2): 4. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol3/iss2/art4.

Costanza, R. 2000. Visions of alternative (unpredictable) futures and their use in policy analysis. Conservation Ecology 4(1): 5. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/art5.

Cumming, G. S. 2002. Habitat shape, species invasions, and reserve design: insights from simple models. Conservation Ecology 6(1): 3. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art3.

Ferris, S. P. 2002. The effects of computers on traditional writing. The Journal of Electronic Publishing 8(1) [online] URL: http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/08-01/ferris.html.

Gillison, A. 2002. A generic, computer-assisted method for rapid vegetation classification and survey: tropical and temperate case studies. Conservation Ecology 6(2): 3. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/art3.

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Hargrove, W. W., F. M. Hoffman, and P. M. Schwartz. 2002. A fractal landscape realizer for generating synthetic maps. Conservation Ecology 6(1): 2. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art2.

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Lieb, T. 2002. Looking forward, looking back. The Journal of Electronic Publishing 7(3) [online] URL: http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/07-03/lieb0703.html.

Odum, E. P. 1953. Fundamentals of ecology. First edition. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Odum, E. P. 1989. Ecology and our endangered life-support systems. Sinauer, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA.

Odum, H. T. 1971. Environment, power and society. John Wiley, New York, New York, USA.

Odum, H. T. 1983. Systems ecology: an introduction. John Wiley, New York, New York, USA.

Peterson, G. D. 2002. Estimating resilience across landscapes. Conservation Ecology 6(1): 17. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art17.

Rajani, R., and D. Rosenberg. 1999. Usable? ... Or not? ... Factors affecting the usability of Web sites. CMC Magazine [online] URL: http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1999/jan/rakros.html.

Raney, A. A., J. R. Jackson, D. B. Edwards, K. L. Schaffler, J. B. Arrington, and M. R. Price. 2002. The relationship between multimedia features and information retrieval. The Journal of Electronic Publishing 7(3) [online] URL: http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/07-03/raney.html.

Address of Correspondent:
Lance Gunderson
Department of Environmental Studies
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
Phone: (404) 727-2429

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