Pier pilings to seamounts: Studies of sessile
animals in Australia

Alan Butler, Ph.D.
CSIRO Marine Research
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Friday, August 20, 1999
12:00 Noon—Pacific Forum

There are two parts to this talk:

First, I’ll offer a few remarks about my present institution, CSIRO Marine Research. Amongst other things, some of my colleagues work on seamounts, which have wonderful sessile fauna.

Second, I’ll present some thoughts about the relationship between science and management. I characterize science as "doubt-management," and I’ll illustrate how this works by looking at examples from studies of sessile animal assemblages like those that grow on pier pilings, rocky reefs, or deep-water seamounts.

Science reduces doubt, but some doubt always remains, and the profession of scientists is to focus on what’s left (and to reduce it further). In the process, science uses ideas as long as they help in reducing doubt, but then discards or modifies them. Legislation, meanwhile, casts scientific ideas in resin, sometimes slightly distorted. And administrators tend to treat scientists as "experts" (people who know things) rather than as doubt-managers (people who focus on what we still don’t know). I’ll argue that the misunderstanding is serious, but that there are ways of overcoming it—there are, in other words, ways of making environmental management into a fundamentally scientific process.

Next: Effects of Sargassum muticum on native marine communities

 Last updated: December 19, 2000