In August 2013 we employed a cross-site, social scientific analysis to understand the extent and nature of arts and humanities inquiry across the LTER Network and to assess perceptions about the values and challenges associated with it. In May 2013 we received a grant from the LTER Network Office to explore three guiding questions:
In 2012, 10 visual and literary artists were selected to participate in a series of expert-guided field trips in Denali National Park and the Bonanza Creek LTER site in Fairbanks, Alaska with local ecologists. After the trips the participants had one year to create original work that responded to place and the complex webs of interdependence among plants, animals, humans, and ecosystems. In August 2013 a show of their collected work opened at the Fairbanks Art Association Bear Gallery. In a Time of Change: Trophic Cascades included silk quilting, sculpture, and painting, as well as storytelling and poetry (for more information see: https://sites.google.com/a/alaska.edu/itoc-trophic-cascades/home/bear-gallery-exhibit). Following this show, the work traveled to Anchorage for a month-long exhibit at Alaska Pacific University.
To better understand the impact of art-humanities-science collaborations on a specific public, we launched an audience perception survey during the show’s opening night. In addition to demographic questions, we asked six 5-point Likert-scale questions about the impact of the exhibit on participant knowledge and attitudes about predators and ecosystem health; two 5-point Likert-scale questions about the role of art in building awareness about ecosystems and issues; and two Likert questions about participant motivations. We asked one short answer question about the most thought-provoking element of the exhibit.
Opening night attendance was 280 visitors. Between August 2-21 attendance numbered 1,820 visitors. In this time we collected 94 surveys. Participants who completed a survey could enter a raffle to win a small piece by a show artist ($100 value). Most surveys were completed on opening night when researchers were present. Not all participants completed every survey question. The survey respondents were highly educated and primarily Alaska residents (see figures 2 and 3). Seventy-three percent of the participants (n = 69) self-identified as female, 23% identified as male (n = 22), and 2% declined to answer (n = 2). The majority of the participants were between 49-70 years old.
In fall 2014 we invited all 24 PIs from the previous study to participate in follow-up interviews and received responses from 15 LTER sites. We then conducted 15 semi-structured telephone interviews with 14 LTER PIs and two LTER outreach and education coordinators. One interview included both a PI and an outreach and education coordinator; joint interviews are a fairly common, if rarely studied, phenomenon (Arksey 1996; Morris 2001) that can surface tacit knowledge and richen data through the relational dynamic of the participants (Polak 2015). One pitfall is the tendency for one participant to overshadow the other, therefore the interviewer pressed individual participants for particular responses when she felt this might be happening (Morris 20011; Polak 2015).
We used a telephone protocol because the participants were spread across the country; phone interviews are generally considered as effective as in-person interviews, while also providing a more efficient use of human and economic resources (Knox and Burkard 2009). Two interviewers each conducted half the interviews and both used the same semi-structured interview guide (Flick 2002):
"Art and Science Collaborations at Biological Field Stations." 2016. Organized and presented in a 90-minute group panel presentation/discussion at the Association for Experiential Education (AESS) Conference, Washington DC, June 2016.
"Arts and Humanities Efforts in the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Understanding Perceived Values and Challenges," 2015. with M.P. Nelson, H. Gosnell, & L. Ryan. 20 minute presentation at the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) conference, San Diego, CA. June 2015.
"Arts and Humanities Efforts in the LTER network: Understanding perceived values and challenges," 2015. with M.P. Nelson, H. Gosnell, & L. Ryan. Poster presented at the HJA LTER 2015 Symposium, OSU, Corvallis, OR.