Rexford F. Daubenmire and the Ecology of Place: Applied Ecology in the Mid-Twentieth-Century American West

  • Adam M. SowardsEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 40)


Over his four-decade career in the Pacific Northwest, ecologist Rexford F. Daubenmire (1909–1995) developed an engaged ecology of place. Daubenmire connected regional fieldwork with ecology’s larger theoretical questions about plant communities. A prolific researcher with a national reputation, he practiced applied ecology on rangelands and in forests, orienting much of his work toward determining what vegetation could potentially occupy a habitat type to inform management decisions. Such a perspective made him useful to regional agriculturalists and resource managers but put him at odds with other ecologists who did not believe distinct and predictable plant communities existed. As a case study, Daubenmire reveals contours of ecological debates between the beginnings of American ecology and the rise of the environmental movement, and he also represents those scientists seeking connections between generalized theories, local conditions, and practical problems.


Applied ecology Community ecology Rexford F. Daubenmire Ecosystem concept Forestry History of ecology Pacific Northwest Resource management 



The participants at the workshop provided a helpful, supportive, and engaging environment. Sharon Kingsland challenged me and forced me to clarify concepts and prose in a way that vastly improved this essay. I am grateful to Laura Kross for her research assistance and many conversations about Daubenmire and ecological methods. Ian Chambers proved to be an excellent reader of multiple drafts. Andrew Duffin provided both invaluable research assistance and intellectual companionship; in an earlier iteration of this essay, he served as my coauthor, an experience I relished. Finally, to Kelley Sowards who listened to my findings and ideas and read countless drafts, I am grateful as we develop our own ecology of place here.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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