The Return of Native Nordic Fauna

A research blog exploring animal reintroduction history by Dolly Jørgensen

Category: publication

Endling, a new word for new times

I have published an article “Endling, the power of the last in an extinction-prone world” in the journal Environmental Philosophy. In the article I put together the history of a word (and the history of the idea) to represent the last individual of a species.

This word, endling, has an exciting 20-year history. It began with a proposal in a short letter to the journal Nature in 1996 to coin a word to represent the last in a line. It was then picked up by the curators of the planned National Museum of Australia (NMA) that opened its doors in 2001 as part of a memorial to extinction, with a special focus on the thylacine. This sparked the word onto its journey into popular culture as well as popular science.

The Endling display at the National Museum of Australia. Photo by D. Jørgensen, 2016.

Importantly in this history, I show much museums and their presentations of ideas matter. I had the good fortune to visit NMA in 2016 (thanks to Professor Libby Robin for arranging my trip and interview with the former curator!). The Endling cabinet or monument was striking with its aluminum shine and central position in the exhibit. Its no wonder that the first people to pick up on endling as a concept had visited the exhibit. The history of endling proves that museum designers and curators have the power to make a difference in how people think and express those thoughts.

Through my historical narrative of this word, I argue that endling could play a key role in remembering species that have become extinct and encouraging action to avoid extinction in the future:

The concept of endling, with its ability to bridge the gap between species extinction as an abstraction and the death of an animal as a concrete event, offers a new way of thinking about extinction. It can make the narrative personal while retaining the universality of extinction—when this individual is gone, the whole species is no more.

This was a very different piece for me to research and write. I interviewed a symphonic composer and a artistic director and choreographer about their uses of endling. I read modern science fiction stories, which are often born digital, that frame the last of a species as an endling. I looked at the visual arts that used the term. And I even got to do research into the different genres of metal music (and played one song over and over again to try to make out the lyrics with its raspy metal voice — to no avail). It was an adventure to follow a word as it popped up here and there in, what at first, were unexpected places. And yet all of it made sense in light of the power of the word as a response to the sixth mass extinction event which we are living through. With new times, we need new words.

I hope you’ll enjoying reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Read my unformatted version of the text or go to the journal’s official version.

My new place for stories

This January (2017) will mark four full years of writing on this research blog. When I started the blog, I wasn’t really sure what it was for. Was it for ‘public’ dissemination of results? Scholarly discussion? Visibility for my work? I’m not sure that I can answer those questions even now four years later. But what I do know is that writing on this blog has changed the way I do research.

methodologicalchallengesI have now published an article about the transformations in my research process spurred on by the digital medium you are reading. My article “A new place for stories: Blogging as an environmental history research tool” appears in the book Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research, edited by Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford, and L. Anders Sandberg, which is now available. This is an awesome collection of environmental history methods articles, which is a welcome scholarly contribution since historians tend to not publish specifically about their research methods.

In my chapter I present an experiment: five pseudo-posts about blogging. I call them pseudo-posts because unlike the true online format of a blog, clickable links and embedded visuals are not possible. Yet I’ve tried to simulate the reading of a blog through indicated links (they are underlined and I give the web addresses in the footnotes) and writing style. Each pseudo-post uses the title of one of my 2013 posts as a launching point and explores how blogging changed the process of my environmental history research.

The five posts I chose were:

  1. Post #1, 1 January 2013: Launch of research blog — How can you not start at the beginning?
  2. Post #30, 4 April 2013: The hidden reintroduction — The most unexpected story of my entire research project since it has to do with a little parasitic beaver louse!
  3. Post #64, 31 July 2013: On the time I drank castoreum — My most read post (thanks to an NPR article that linked to it) and a great story about stinking like beaver.
  4. Post #80, 7 October 2013: Museum menageries — I’ve always loved visiting museums, but this project has helped me to see them in whole new ways.
  5. Post #88, 13 December 2013: Migrant muskox — Different scholarly media interact (talks, videos, articles, and blog posts) so we have to embrace them all!

In each ‘post’ section, I talk about the larger issues of how I’ve done my historical research for this project and the effect of blogging on that process. Although blogs may provide space for research dissemination, discussion, or community building, I have found that the greatest effect of my blogging has been a shift in my scholarly practice by embracing two central aspects of research blogging: writing often and sharing stories. That’s what doing history is all about.

 

If you’d like to read the stories I shared in the article in full, you can read a text-only version here. I’d definitely also recommend that you (or your local library) buy the book so you can read all the contributions.

Unexpected media blitz

Earlier this week the press department at my university published a write-up in Swedish about this project based on an interview with me: Utrotade arters återkomst väcker känslor. The university press contact Sofia Stridsman had seen that I had an article in The Washington Post and wanted to find out more about my research. I thought it was a nice gesture, so I quickly agreed to the interview.

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A non-specialist specialist

This week I’m at the 12th European Multicolloquium of Parasitology (EMOP XII) in Turku, Finland. Why, you might ask, am I at a conference about parasites? I am not by any stretch a parasite specialist like the rest of the attendees. But I was asked to give a plenary speech in spite of, or even more correctly because of, my background. I think how this came about can be instructive for environmental historians so I’ll tell you the story.

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Animals and authority in the Arctic

I have a new article out co-authored with Peder Roberts (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) on the many attempts and plans by Norwegians to move animals to and from the Arctic during the Interwar period. We teamed up together on this because while I had looked into the muskoxen relocated from East Greenland to Svalbard and the plans to introduce lemmings and rabbits as fox food on Svalbard, Peder had done work on penguin, seal, and reindeer relocations involving the Antarctic. The sheer number of these attempts was mind boggling.

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