“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
― Charles Darwin
Yes, I have opened my very first blog post with a quote. Cowardly, I know, but it seemed so fitting that I couldn’t resist. After much thought (and ignoring the part of me that still thinks I should have gone for something more dramatic), I have decided to begin at the beginning, by clarifying the meaning and purpose of ‘Symbiology’: a term which I haven’t exactly made up, but probably may as well have – I for one had never heard of it until today.
Symbiology is the study (or in this case, exploration) of symbioses. A symbiosis, as you may know, is a frequent or long term interaction between different living things, normally between different species. As usual, there is a boring and mostly unnecessary academic dispute as to whether or not a ‘symbiotic’ relationship is one that benefits both parties, or whether the term refers to any kind of association (including, for example, the relationship between a parasite and its host). I’m going to stick with the broader definition, because it better serves my purpose, which is to cast the net wide and look at all kinds of interactions between all different kinds of species. That being said, I warn you now that there will, at least initially, be a focus on interactions between humans and other animals. Why? Well, because my primary area of interest (and to some extent, expertise) is anthrozoology, or the study of human-animal interactions. You probably think I’m just making stuff up now, but anthrozoology is a bona fide academic field (we have a society and everything); although when I say field, it’s more like rangeland, with a roughly defined outline but very little in the way of fences.
That’s a plus-point, as far as I’m concerned, because (as you will no doubt learn) I am quite an indecisive person and, as an anthrozoologist, one can also be a zoologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, a sociologist, a philosopher, a geographer or just someone who’s interested in animals and/or humans (which covers pretty much everyone else, excluding sociopaths). The boundaries are faint because, although you may not have thought about it before, anthrozoology influences almost everything; from everyday activities like keeping pets, eating meat and visiting zoos, through well-covered issues like conservation, hunting and medical research, to animal-assisted therapy and enlisting dolphins to help with fishing.
Despite this, I still thought anthrozoology was too limited a scope for this fledgling blog, as I would then feel bound to exclude posts that weren’t human-related in some way. So, Symbiology is the exploration of how living things relate to other living things. That should be broad enough…