Φ-Geo is a research group dedicated to exploring topics in the philosophy of the geosciences (historical and current Earth sciences), broadly understood. Areas of research pursued by Phi-Geo members include epistemological, methodological, and metaphysical issues in geochronology, paleontology, paleobiology, ecology, paleoanthropology, geomorphology, climate & paleoclimate studies, and especially issues related to philosophy of modeling and philosophy of data. Below you will find group member bios, recent publications, and news.
Director of Research Group:
Dr. Alisa Bokulich
Alisa is currently writing a new book Philosophy of the Geosciences: Data, Models, & Uncertainty, which draws on conceptual and methodological issues in geomorphology, stratigraphy, paleontology, and geochronology, with chapters on issues related to models, data, uncertainty, typification, and the philosophy of geologic time. For further details see her bio and research pages. (She pronounces her name ‘uh-LEE-suh’ ‘BEAU-coo-litch’)
Current Graduate Student Members
Federica’s PhilPeople Profile
Federica’s research mostly focuses on metaphysical issues in philosophy and in the history of the life sciences. She is particularly interested in exposing the conceptual and metaphysical assumptions embedded in scientific methods and practices. Her interests range from biological essentialism to causation and identity in eco-evo-devo and microbiology. She is particularly interested in paleoecology and paleodiversity, and is writing a dissertation on “Philosophy of Biodiversity: Conceptual & Practical Issues in Measurement, Data, & Conservation.” (She pronounces her name ‘Feh-deh-REE-kah’ ‘BOKE-key’.)
Leticia Castillo Brache
Leticia is interested in philosophy of climate science, paleoclimate proxies, and issues related to justice and values in climate adaptation & mitigation, especially for indigenous populations. She is also interested in philosophy of biology particularly in animal consciousness and conservation biology. Some of her other interests are in feminist philosophy and Latin American philosophy, especially issues regarding identity. (She pronounces her name ‘Luh-TEE-see-ah’ ‘Cas-TEE-yo’ ‘Bruh-CHeh’.)
Matilde is joining us as a new philosophy graduate student from the University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. She was a participant in the Summer School in Foundations of Quantitative Paleontology at the University of Helsinki and a participant in the School of Palaeoanthropology at the Università degli Studi di Perugia. She is particularly interested in the philosophy of paleoanthropology. In addition to the philosophy of paleosciences, she has interests in the philosophy of scientific explanation.
Matt is interested in epistemological issues in science, especially those in the philosophies of measurement and data. He is particularly interested in issues arising from the measurement and detection of so-called “unobservables.” Matt is currently exploring these issues and others as they arise in epistemic practices in the historical sciences. He is also interested more generally in the philosophy of biology, phenomenology, and Ancient Greek philosophy. He received his BA in philosophy from Fordham University.
Current Undergraduate Members:
Adam is currently an undergraduate Philosophy major at Boston University. He is working on a Senior Thesis project on how scientist resolve discrepancies between tree rings and climate models
Recent PhD Students now Affiliated Faculty Members
Dr. Aja Watkins
Aja’s Google Scholar Profile
Aja Watkins is starting as an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at University of Wisconsin, Madison in Fall of 2023. She is primarily interested in epistemological issues in the historical sciences, such as paleontology and paleoclimatology, as well as related topics in philosophy of biology and philosophy of the earth sciences more broadly. She recently defended her dissertation “Forecasts from the Deep Past: Using Paleoclimate Analogs to Inform Climate Projections”, which is on how we can use the paleoclimate as an analogue model for contemporary climate change. Aja’s other recent work touches on the topics of developmental biology, microbiology, and feminist philosophy of science. (She pronounces her first name ‘ASIA’.)
Dr. Katherine Valde
Website Katherine Valde is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wofford College. She works primarily in the philosophy science and philosophy of biology, including a specific interest in the relationship between fossil and molecular clocks in the measurement of geologic time. (She pronounces her last name ‘Vahl-Dee’.)
Affiliated & Visiting Graduate Student Members
Sarah is a PhD student in BU’s Earth & Environment Department, working on coastal geomorphology and sedimentology. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Boston University and also has interests in the philosophy of geosciences.
Recent Undergraduate Members:
Gloria recently graduated from BU, majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. She is interested in the philosophy of science, environmental issues, and how past mass extinctions can inform us about endangered species today. Her other research has been focused on political philosophy, where she examines topics such as civil disobedience and theories of utopia. She is also interested in Africana philosophy and Feminist philosophy that specifically explores the existential significance of race and gender. She has received a UROP grant this year to pursue her research project on “Are We in a 6th Mass Extinction? What Past Mass Extinctions Can Teach Us”. (She pronounces her last name ‘Grahn-Pea-Air’.)
Henry recently graduated from BU, majoring in Advertising from the College of Communication. Henry is interested in the philosophy of paleontology, especially with issues of underdetermination in the fossil record, interpretations of unique structures of extinct lifeforms, and the evolution of first life. His passion stems from paleontology, and he created and has managed the Eons Ago Instagram account for over four years to showcase his extensive fossil collection. His recent work includes an interpretation for trilobite anterior cephalic projections through analogous modern arthropods.
Recent Publications from Φ-Geo Group:
- Federica Bocchi, Alisa Bokulich, Leticia Castillo Brache, Gloria Grand-Pierre, Aja Watkins (forthcoming) “Are We in a Sixth Mass Extinction? The Challenges of Answering and Value of Asking” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
- Bokulich, A. (2021) “Taming the Tyranny of Scales: Models and Scale in the Geosciences” Synthese
- Bokulich, A. (2020), “Towards a Taxonomy of the Model-Ladenness of Data” Philosophy of Science 87 (5): 793-806. (A paper exploring the different ways theoretical and simulation models are used in the production of data sets in the geosciences.)
- Bokulich, A. (2020), “Understanding Scientific Types: Holotypes, Stratotypes, & Measurement Prototypes“ Biology & Philosophy 35, 54 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-020-09771-1
- Watkins, A. (forthcoming), “The Epistemic Value of the Living Fossils Concept,” Philosophy of Science, Proceedings PSA 2020-21.
- Bokulich, A. (2020), “Calibration, Coherence, and Consilience in Radiometric Measures of Geologic Time” Philosophy of Science 87 (3): 425-456.
Φ-Geo Group News
- Congratulations to Phi-Geo grad Aja Watkins on successfully defending her dissertation
Forecasts from the Deep Past: Using Paleoclimate Analogs to Inform Climate Projects! She will be taking up a tenure-track job Fall 2023 as Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at U Wisconsin, Madison.
- Phi-Geo Group members presenting at “The Future of the Past: Philosophical Issues in the Historical Sciences” Aug 8-9, 2022; check out the talks by Matilde, Leticia, Aja, & Federica (& keynote by Alisa)
- Aja & Alisa delivered talks at the Measurement at the Crossroads Conference in Milan, Italy in June, 2022 and the Society for the Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP) in Ghent, Belgium in July 2022.
- Federica, Aja, & Alisa will be speaking at the upcoming European Philosophy of Science Association biennial meeting at Univ. of Turin (Italy) 15-17 September, 2021 https://philsci.eu/EPSA21
- Aja will be giving a talk on “Analogue Models in Paleontology” at the International Society for the History, Philosophy, & Social Studies of BIology biennial meeting (online) https://www.ishpssb.org/meetings/ishpssb2021
- Alisa has been named a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University for the 2021-2022 year to complete her book project Philosophy of the Geosciences: Data, Models, & Uncertainty https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/people/alisa-bokulich
- Federica’s presentation ‘The Influence of Processual Ontology and Deep Time Literacy on Conservation: the case of the Kruger National Park’ has been accepted for the British Society for the Philosophy of Science conference (online) 7-9 July http://www.thebsps.org/news/bsps-2021-annual-conference-at-the-university-of-kent-7-9-july/
- Leticia’s presentation paper on “Forward & Inverse Modeling in the Production of Paleoclimate Data” has been accepted for presentation at the Integrated History & Philosophy of Climate Data conference, August 25-27 in Bern, Switzerland. https://www.oeschger.unibe.ch/ihpcd2021
- Congratulations to Henry, whose awesome dinosaur discovery is a featured story in BU Today!
- Congratulations to our undergrad member Gloria on receiving a $1,300 Student Research Award to pursue her project “Are We in a 6th Mass Extinction? What Past Mass Extinctions Can Teach Us”!
- Our graduate students Federica and Aja have been accepted to the week-long interdisciplinary Summer School on Quantitative Palaeontology, organized by Professor Indrė Žliobaitė (U of Helsinki). They are very much looking forward to exploring issues at the intersection of paleontology, fossil data, philosophy of science, and data science.
- We are thrilled to announce that Aja has received one of the highly competitive 2020 National Science Foundation NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, which will support her graduate studies over the next 3-5 years.
- Alisa’s PSA Symposium session on “Reconstructing Geologic Time” has been accepted for PSA 2021, Nov. 11-14, in Baltimore:
Abstract: The aim of this symposium is to explore some of the key philosophical issues involved in the reconstruction of geologic time. It will address methods for synchronizing the imperfect clocks of geologic time (Katherine Valde, Wofford College), strategies for reconstructing time from the missing stratigraphic record (Alisa Bokulich, BU), conventionality versus naturalness in delimiting the units of geologic time (Joeri Witteveen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark), methodological insights from shallow-time stratigraphy (Carlos Gray Santana, University of Utah), and the high scientific and social costs of failing to recognize the Anthropocene as a formal unit of the GTS (Hernán Bobadilla, University of Vienna, Austria).
Current Faculty Collaborators:
Website Patrick Forber is an Associate Professor in philosophy at Tufts University. He works primarily on philosophy of biology, with a specific interest in the ways we can use formal evolutionary models to facilitate inquiry into and reconstruction of the deep past.
Dr. Wendy Parker
Website Wendy Parker is a Professor of Philosophy at Virginia Tech. She works on philosophy of climate science, especially issues related to modeling, computer simulation, data, measurement, and evidence. She is a contributing author for the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — IPCC Working Group I, a member of the recently-formed US CLIVAR Ocean Uncertainty Quantification Working Group, and she is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science