The UCSB brown-bag forum on spatial thinking presents

Species Complex:

Classification and Conservation in American Environmental History

Peter S. Alagona

Associate Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, UCSB

12:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | Phelps Hall 3512 (map)

peter_alagona_talkAbstract. How do the ways people classify non-human nature reflect their ideas about it and shape their interactions with it? My talk will address this key question—from the perspectives of philosophy, science, management, and law—through the remarkable case of steelhead and rainbow trout. Beginning in the late 18th century, naturalists debated the relations of these two kinds of fish in the salmon family. By the 1930s, researchers had determined that rainbows, which remain in freshwater for their entire lives, and steelhead, which migrate from freshwater to saltwater and back to spawn, were not distinct biological kinds but merely two forms of the same interbreeding species. Yet by then, the histories of these two forms had diverged. Today, rainbows are bred by the millions in hatcheries and rank among the world’s most abundant fish, while steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered all along the West Coast of the United States. If, as the saying goes, classification systems tend to reveal as much about the classifiers as the classified, then the case of steelhead and rainbow trout holds many potential lessons about environmental history, the role of science in society, and Americans’ relationship with non-human nature.

Peter S. Alagona is an associate professor of history, geography, and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his PhD from UCLA in 2006, and later held fellowships at Harvard and Stanford universities. He is the current recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER grant, and was the winner of UCSB’s 2013 Harold J. Plous Memorial Award.

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial brown-bag presentations are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.
Please contact Andrea Ballatore (893-5267, to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial thinking.

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