Article ID: CBB100002745

Sedimentary legacy and the disturbing recurrence of the human in long-term ecological research (2022)


Even as new elements of a research infrastructure are added, older parts continue to exert persistent and consequential influence. We introduce the concept of sedimentary legacy to describe the relationship between infrastructure and research objects. Contrary to common accounts of legacy infrastructure that underscore lock-in, static, or constraining outcomes, sedimentary legacy emphasizes how researchers adapt infrastructure to support the investigation of new research objects, even while operating under constraining legacies. To illustrate the implications of sedimentary legacy, we track shifting objects of investigation across the history of the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, focusing especially on recurrent ecological investigations of ‘human disturbance’ as researchers shift to study socioecological objects. We examine the relationship between scientific objects and the resources collected and preserved to render such objects tractable to scientific investigations, and show how the resources of a long-term research infrastructure support the assembly of certain objects of investigation, even while foreclosing others.

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Authors & Contributors
Sonja van Wichelen
Mareike Smolka
Tibor Dessewffy
Desley A. Whisson
Boer, Bas de
Te Molder, Hedwig
Science, Technology and Human Values
Social Studies of Science
Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society
Engineering Studies
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Archives of Natural History
New York University Press
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Knowledge and learning
Life sciences
Latour, Bruno
Time Periods
21st century
20th century

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