I first learned about the ecosystem that was (was) the Indian River Lagoon back before we killed it with agricultural runoff and clam rakes and chemical pollution and such, not from a book, and not from scientists, but from people who had been living there for a very long time, and who had made their living harvesting the gifts that it offered, and they who had learned it from those who occupied the land before them.
Some learned even by trial and error.
The same thing with weather, not climate so much, but just weather, in that place, how the wind would shift during the course of a day as the land mass heated (I didn’t learn that part until later, in school, about the pressure gradients, how to do the math to derive the slightly incorrect wind speed), but as the day wore on and the temperature difference between land and sea changed, that was knowledge that the guy I learned it from, uneducated as he was, held. And how it would change with season, and with sun or clouds, he held that knowledge, too.
It was the same in terms of gathering the clams from the lagoon, trapping the pig fish to use as bait for the big trout that would be hanging around under the mangroves, throwing the cast net, that pattern of grass, what would be where based on that, based on distance from the inlet, ingoing or outgoing tide. Where the flounder would most likely be, what might be by those pilings, or in that rocky area.
Later in life, when I first started learning Systems Ecology, and it was within a framework of marine and freshwater pelagic systems, something I knew intimately, not from books, but from experience, and I started doing reductionist science, I recognized, immediately, the inherent error in the reductionist approach.
I recognized that those “ignorant”, uneducated folks I’d first learned from, understood the system far better than did science, because ever and always, that’s how they experienced it. As a system. They understood that if rakes came in and tore up the bottom, the root systems of those grasses, that the clams would be wiped out. It wasn’t necessary to understand about how ova might be deposited, or what other interactions might be occurring, the grasses were where the clams lived.
And their knowledge was "transdisciplinary" there was intimate understanding of how that change in wind speed and direction during the course of the day, interacting with the tides, dependent not on temperature but phase of the moon, how that would affect water clarity and where the fish would be.
No IGERT fellowship required. Imagine that.
Science was more interested in harvesting clams as efficiently as possible. It didn’t want to get its feet wet, or risk stepping on a stingray. It didn’t have enough sense to shuffle along and enjoy the lagoon, to watch the dolphins play. Most clammers worked at most, a few hours a day, shuffling along, watching the dolphins play.
And indeed, those grasses, of course, they affect the dolphins, too. So do the clams, they affect the water. It’s a system.
The trout and the mangroves? Mostly gone. The stingrays, I imagine, are thriving, who knows? No one with any sense gets into the water any more, not in many parts of the lagoon. Water skiers, mostly.
The water? I gag as I think of the impacts the water has had on that system, that watery, watery system. For the fisher folk there, it is effectively dead. The poisons washed in from the west, from all of that food production land that the University of Florida has so proudly put under its control, have destroyed it. Those Florida Gators, and not the reptilian kind, have done so much to kill that beautiful ecosystem that all I can do is say Go, science, go!