Complex problems and research questions call for interdisciplinary research. An example of institutional awakening to this need is the advent of agroecology curriculum, programs, and centers. Attending this interest is a great deal of confusion about what agroecology is, who practices it, and how it should be defined. In an effort to advance this science, my research group has applied various experimental agroecological models to questions of grassland ecology:
- Designing projects for our lab with specific agronomic, ecological, and sociological objectives and hypotheses
- Bringing together ecologists, agronomists, and sociologists to work on one project
- Using unmanaged conservation areas of farms to conduct ecological research
Each approach presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. The results from the first model have been streamlined and quickly turned into several manuscripts submitted for peer-review. The second approach has produced a publication, but synthesis is slow. A preliminary comparison of these approaches was addressed at the 2007 Ecological Society of America conference, and our lab continues to examine the tradeoffs inherent to these alternative models of agroecological research.