Category Archives: Interdisciplinarity

Living Interdisciplinarity

As an environmental scientist, I have embraced interdisciplinarity to its fullest extent. Until recently, no “environmental scientist” has had an advanced degree in environmental science (ES for short). My background is soil science, other ES experts come from the fields of ecology, conservation biology, water science, marine science, etc.

The interdisciplinarity of environmental science (Source: NSF, Wikispaces)

The interdisciplinarity of environmental science (Source: NSF, Wikispaces)

Notice that a lot more than scientific expertise goes into environmental science. Those in ES pick up this knowledge from colleagues, papers, and experience. We often are necessarily more collaborative. It makes life much more varied and interesting. I enjoy teaching both environmental geochemistry and environmental policy!

One of the few disciplines not highlighted in the figure is art. Creativity in scientists often gets short-shrift, but many of us are very creative in our minds even if we don’t have true artistic talent. Just take a look at my field notebook to see how awful a bird can look- but the crude drawing reminds me of the beautiful bird I actually saw and the circumstances of the sighting which can inspire a future study or action. We appreciate the beauty of nature and how systems are all connected. Of course this hippie-esque perspective also sometimes causes our field of ES to lose some respect from those in the purer disciplines whose concepts and expertise we rely on.

Althuogh Weller claims that in many cases interdisciplinary work is often not profitable, I believe that is changing in the ES field. The reason is a sad one: because the environment is falling apart around us. It will take a lot of experts from a lot of disciplines as well as all citizens to help our poor Earth.

Coughing Earth