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Environmental Sciences - Environmental Management | Intelligent Tinkering - Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice

Intelligent Tinkering

Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice

Cabin, Robert J.

2011, XX, 220p.


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  • Cabin’s experience as both an academic research ecologist and a restoration scientist/practitioner gives him the credibility and platform to discuss and critique the role of formal science in restoration
  • The main theme—role of science within the practice of ecological restoration—is a major selling point, interest is proven by an exchange of views in one of the two major journals in the field
  • Writing style and content will attract readers, especially from the practitioner part of the audience

Robert J. Cabin uses the restoration of tropical dry forestland in Hawaii as an in-depth case study to investigate the scientific, practical, and philosophical issues associated with performing ecological restoration in the messy real world.

Interweaving entertaining narratives of his own on-the-ground experiences as a practicing restorationist with reflections about his scientific training and background, Cabin explores the relationship between science and practice in ecological restoration. He observes that because restoration can be complex and value-driven, its implementation often turns out to be as much interdisciplinary art as hard science. Despite the often distinct cultures and methodologies of scientists and practitioners, Cabin shows how each has a vital role in effective restoration and offers suggestions for improving working relationships.

One approach he advocates is what he calls "intelligent tinkering," after the work of Aldo Leopold. In this model, practitioners employ the same kind of careful but informal trial-and-error strategy followed by such groups as indigenous peoples and hobbyist mechanics. Cabin illustrates the power of intelligent tinkering using examples from his own work and other restoration projects.

The gap between science and practice is not unique to ecological restoration; it is a widespread problem across all fields of applied science. Written in a clear and engaging style, Intelligent Tinkering offers an insightful look at the underlying causes of the problem, along with invaluable suggestions for addressing it.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Aldo Leopold - Island Press - Restoration ecology - Restoration practice - Science

Related subjects » Ecology - Environmental Management - Nature Conservation & Biodiversity

Table of contents 


Introduction: The Science of Restoration Ecology and the Practice of Ecological Restoration

PART 1. Restoring Paradise

1. Tropical Dry Forests: Land of the Living Dead

2. Let’s See Action! Planning and Implementing a Research and Restoration Program

3. Now What? Responding to Nature’s Response

4. Writing It Up: The Art and Importance of Science Papers

5. Scaling Up: Micro to Macro Science and Practice

6. Shall We Dance? The Trade-Offs of Science-Practice Collaborations and Community-Driven Restoration

PART 2. Toward a More Perfect Union

7. The Science-Practice Gap

8. Bridging the Science-Practice Gap

9. Intelligent Tinkering

Selected bibliography


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