Monday, November 5, 2012

Michael Lannoo Interview Part 1

In an earlier interview for this blog, you said that Iowa Lakeside Lab was the place where your nineteen-year-old self decided to become a field biologist. Now some decades later, you have written a book that celebrates Lakeside as a permanent biological field station dedicated to the long-term study of nature in nature. How did this book evolve?

The summer of 2012 marked the 36th summer that I’d been associated with Lakeside in one way or another. In ’77 and ’78 I was an undergraduate taking classes and doing research, in ’80 and ’81 I was a master’s student doing research, ’88 was my first year on the faculty. While people have been associated with Lakeside longer (for example, in the 104 years of the Lab’s existence, there have been only four caretakers), few have gone through the undergraduate–graduate school academic progression, then spent a quarter of a century serving on the faculty. In total, I’ve spent about five years of my life at Lakeside. So, I’ve had plenty of time to think about the place and to consider it from different perspectives. At some point in my thinking, I got around to the question “What does this place mean?” To answer that, I had to put Lakeside in the context of its time, and to do that, I had to both document and understand its history. Only then did I have the makings—both philosophical and factual—of this book.

I realized early that if this book was to be any good, two things had to happen. First, it could not simply be a history. Instead, it had to show how Lakeside provides the information—the ecological detail—that can point us toward a sustainable society. And second, despite my history at the place, the book must not be about me. So many times when someone writes about something, it becomes primarily about them and secondarily about their subject. I consciously avoided that. There are only two places where I show up, and there was no getting around these mentions.

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