Conceptual toolboxes for twenty‐first‐century ecologists uri icon

abstract

  • We ecologists realize that individually we have a variety of interests, knowledge, and skills among us; and we appreciate how those attributes differentially apply to the diverse tasks we address in our various "practices" of ecology. Less obvious to us, however, is the variety of intellectual tools we bring to bear in our practices. In order to understand how members of our discipline "think" as well as "know" and "act," this paper explores how the utility of ecological concepts varies among ecologists and how concepts tend to be lumped into what might be viewed as cognitive "toolkits" for implementing our work. Knowing the character of these metaphorical toolkits helps us to understand the nature of our discipline, to better teach ecology, and to more effectively communicate with one another. We collected "usefulness" ratings of 131 normative concepts (i.e., what an ecologist ought to know) through an Ecological Society of America-wide survey and analyzed results through cluster analysis. Ten concept clusters emerged, each having varying numbers of concepts and various degrees of subject matter cohesion. Only some of these resembled commonly recognized specializations in ecology. General descriptors for these clusters are as follows: general ecology, population ecology, community ecology, evolutionary ecology, ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, spatial structures, scaling structure and function, cross-system structures, and cross-system dynamics.
  • We ecologists realize that individually we have a variety of interests, knowledge, and skills among us; and we appreciate how those attributes differentially apply to the diverse tasks we address in our various ?practices? of ecology. Less obvious to us, however, is the variety of intellectual tools we bring to bear in our practices. In order to understand how members of our discipline ?think? as well as ?know? and ?act,? this paper explores how the utility of ecological concepts varies among ecologists and how concepts tend to be lumped into what might be viewed as cognitive ?toolkits? for implementing our work. Knowing the character of these metaphorical toolkits helps us to understand the nature of our discipline, to better teach ecology, and to more effectively communicate with one another. We collected ?usefulness? ratings of 131 normative concepts (i.e., what an ecologist ought to know) through an Ecological Society of America-wide survey and analyzed results through cluster analysis. Ten concept clusters emerged, each having varying numbers of concepts and various degrees of subject matter cohesion. Only some of these resembled commonly recognized specializations in ecology. General descriptors for these clusters are as follows: general ecology, population ecology, community ecology, evolutionary ecology, ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, spatial structures, scaling structure and function, cross-system structures, and cross-system dynamics

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2018
  • 2018