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Landscapes and LabscapesExploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology$
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Robert E. Kohler

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226450094

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226450117.001.0001

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Border Practices

Border Practices

Chapter:
(p.252) Chapter 8 Border Practices
Source:
Landscapes and Labscapes
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226450117.003.0008

Biologists in the lab–field border zone could import practices of counting and measuring, or they could read nature's work as experiment. In either case, biologists remained dependent on the material culture or protocols of laboratory science. However, in the next two decades, practices evolved that were less dependent on laboratory methods and models. These practices were traditional field methods, but intensified and amplified in a lablike way. They possessed the analytical power of laboratory experiment, but they did not imitate experimental logic and were appropriate to field problems and conditions. The practices produced important conceptual advances in evolution and ecology and supported a general abandonment of ideas of equilibrium and orderly development in favor of stochastic views of nature permanently in flux. Border practices somewhat redressed the epistemological asymmetry between lab work and fieldwork, and evolved in the field as intensifications of traditional methods of observing and comparing. Most were invented by field naturalists and perpetuated the traditional aims and methods of natural history by giving it some of the analytical force of laboratory precision and causal analysis.

Keywords:   border practices, biologists, laboratory science, field naturalists, evolution

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