Organized Session

Maritime Cultures and the Translation of Scientific Knowledge

Organizer

Judy Johns Schloegel

Independent Scholar

Chair

Christine Keiner

Rochester Institute of Technology

Metadata

Session Abstract

Maritime cultures are as numerous and diverse as the unique marine environments and local cultures that develop within them. Coral islands, estuaries, archipelagoes, polar seas, and inland lakes are just some of the marine environments in which local culture informs the development of scientific knowledge. This session examines maritime cultures as epistemic spaces. Collectively, the papers consider the translation of scientific knowledge in its many senses-including the conversion of knowledge from one form to another, and the movement of knowledge among people, locations, and cultures-within these epistemic spaces. We consider, in particular, the exchange and translation of practices, tools, methods, values, and tacit knowledge of maritime work cultures to the domain of scientific knowledge. The resulting scientific inscriptions and images bear the interests and priorities of the maritime cultures that inform them. Specifically, Katharina Steiner's paper explores the role of epistemic interests and marine work cultures in the visual genres employed by Ernst Haeckel and Victor Hensen in their well-known debate over the role of phytoplankton in marine ecosystems. Emily Hutcheson then utilizes literary genre to examine the exchanges of local labor and knowledge in the production of taxonomic names and ecological facts during the 1899-1900 Siboga oceanographic expedition to the Dutch East Indies. Judy Johns Schloegel subsequently explores a series of scientific surveys of the US Great Lakes led by zoologist Jacob Reighard in collaboration with the Michigan and US Fish Commissions to investigate the role of Great Lakes commercial and recreational fishing culture in shaping the scientific products of the surveys.

Presenter 1

The Use of Images in the Debate between Haeckel and Hensen over the Role of Plankton

Katharina Steiner

University of Wisconsin Madison and University of Geneva

Abstract

In studying the diversity of nature, biologists have employed a remarkable range of scientific images to serve their many purposes. In this talk I ask, how did the images represent the research programs that produced them? Put another way, how did the researcher's epistemic interests affect the choice of pictorial representation? To begin to answer these questions, I will analyze the use of images in a controversy between Ernst Haeckel and Victor Hensen over the role that phytoplankton play in marine ecosystems in late nineteenth century marine biology.
Haeckel and Hensen used many visual genres including drawings of individual species, dissections of organisms, and diagrams in their argumentation. For example, Hensen's "hill-chain" diagram represented the relationship between the abundance of plankton genera and species in terms of their similarities of form both within and across groups, presenting ecological relationships that Haeckel's trees of life could not.
Haeckel and Hensen operated within different scientific environments. To oversimplify, Haeckel was a theoretician interested in abstract relationships between species for the sake of a general understanding of the order of nature. Hensen was a field biologist interested in the productivity of the oceans for how it could inform the fishery industry. I draw out how the differences in their environments and the physical environment they drew from made a difference to their visual cultures and draw some lessons on the ways that work cultures and epistemic interests shaped scientific images in late nineteenth-century marine biology.

Metadata

Presenter 2

Local Labor, Transnational Science: Producing Scientific Objects and Inscriptions in the Dutch East Indies, circa 1900

Emily Hutcheson

University of Wisconsin Madison

Abstract

On March 7th, 1899 the HM Siboga left Surabaya, a port city on the northern coast of Java, and embarked on a yearlong oceanographic expedition. The Siboga expedition aimed to study life in the deep and shallow seas and its onboard scientific staff were comprised of three zoologists, one botanist and one physician. The scientists were interested in collecting marine plants and animals of all types and gathered massive amounts of biological specimens over the course of the year. This paper explores the processes and methods that the Siboga expedition relied on to make these scientific collections, which were sent to Holland and then to scientific specialists across the world for analysis. Shipside and onshore exchanges offer insight into how the diverse peoples of the East Indies participated in knowledge-making; whether through gift exchanges, labor-wage exchanges, or self-conscious scientific collaboration. In her travel narrative (1904) from the Siboga expedition, algologist Anna Weber-van Bosse recorded moments of collaborative exchange with local actors who generously assisted in the Siboga's goals of collecting Southeast Asian marine flora and fauna. These included wealthy Muslim traders with personal natural history collections, pearl farmers, and sustenance divers and fishers. However, the scientific monographs published after the completion of the voyage do not mention the local contributors' labors. By analyzing the travel narrative together with the scientific monographs, I investigate how the Siboga scientists viewed their reliance on local knowledge to produce universal scientific knowledge.

Metadata

Presenter 3

Instituting Biology in the Great Lakes: Scientific Survey Work and Inland Seas Maritime Culture, 1893-1903

Judy Johns Schloegel

Independent Scholar

Abstract

In the summer of 1893, University of Michigan zoologist, Jacob Reighard, launched the first of a series of scientific surveys of the Great Lakes that continued over the next decade, funded first by the Michigan Fish Commission and later by the US Commission on Fish and Fisheries. The research parties were staffed by zoologists and a botanist, as well as laborers, sailors, and Commission staff scientists. These joint enterprises constituted a reciprocally beneficial relationship for both Reighard and his academic associates and for the Fish Commissions. The surveys were structured to address pressing concerns defined by the Fish Commissions, such as the decreasing whitefish harvests in the Great Lakes. In Reighard's view, scientific answers to such problems required a large-scale and comprehensive effort to study the life conditions of lake fish, including the lakes' physical characteristics, water chemistry, and surveys of all species living in the lakes, including study of their habitat, food, predators, and parasites. Reighard's ecological framing of the surveys and their large scale provided considerable latitude for the academic members of the party to carry out investigations that met not only Commission needs but their own academic priorities. This paper examines the development and mutual exchange of scientific and practical knowledge between academic researchers and resource management workers during these collaborations. In particular, it considers how Commission priorities and the labor, methods, tools, and knowledge of Commission workers such as fish handlers and fish culturists informed the biological projects and knowledge that arose from these joint undertakings. It argues that Great Lakes commercial and recreational fishing culture played a significant role in shaping the academic projects carried out as a result of the surveys, including the ecological perspective that emerged in much of this research.

Metadata

Commentator

Alistair Sponsel

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory