Ecology

Introduction to Ecology
 

WHAT ECOLOGY IS NOT

Ecology is not enviromnental science. Why?  What is environmental science?

 

Ecology obtained widespread recognition in the "environmental crisis" of the 1960's and even labeled as the "subversive science" because ecological principles called into question some of the cultural and economic premises widely accepted by western civilization.

 
 

THEN, WHAT IS ECOLOGY?

Ecology as a discipline was formally named by Ernst Haeckel in 1869 (from the greek  'oikos', "the family household").

Der Zoologe Ernst Haeckel, Insulindby Emil Orlik http://www.orlikprints.com/home.html
 

Informally even older (is the average modern individual is less knowledgable about the ecological surroundings than were are ancesters?).   For example, interactions between organisms and the environment have been described by numerous scholars prior to 1869:


Theophrastus

Mark Catesby
 


von Humboldt


Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace
Thomas Malthus

 

Typically defined as the study of the interrelations of organsims with each other and their environments.What other disciplines within and outside of biology are important in answering ecological questions?

  ("Impossible for ecology to become a definite science".)
   
 

Ecology is the the study of this complexity, moving away from the laboratory, reductionist studies of the 19th century and looking at whole organisms in the field.  i.e. scientific natural history.  Ecology emerged at the end of the 1800's as a distinct discipline.
 
  So when attempting to solve ecological problems, one must often "think differently" .
 
 

But definitions differ depending on the focus of the ecologist.  For example:

Influenced by study system, scale, and subdiscipline.  


Traditionally, ecology has been subdivided into levels of complexity depending on the question asked:

  • Population - a group of individuals of the same species that live in a specific area.
  • Community - all populations in a specific area
  • Ecosystems - the community and the physical environment





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    WHY ARE ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS DIFFICULT TO STUDY?


     


    Ecological systems are not easy to study, but this challenge is what makes ecology fun.
















     
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