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Ecology

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Ecology


"Eco-"  
 
 means home, habitat or environment.
"-logy"  means what is believed to be true about science.

Ecology is the
scientific study
of the complex
inter-relationships
between
living organisms and their environments.
 


Wandering tigress

But, something is wrong with this picture!
Humans are not separate from all other living organisms and the environment.

We do not live in a bubble that keeps us apart from the rest of life on our planet.  Humans are very much a part of the interactions that take place in the web of life.  In fact, we have a very profound effect on species and the global environment, so we need to include ourselves (the human species) as we study about the environment of the world we live in.


The Ecological Society of America defines ecology more
specifically as:

"Ecology is the scientific discipline that is concerned with the relationships between organisms and their past, present, and future environments. These relationships include physiological responses of individuals, structure and dynamics of populations, interactions among species, organization of biological communities, and processing of energy and matter in ecosystems."

 

 

"A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimension."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes


Links 
are provided below and throughout the website 
to help you learn about ecology and scientific investigation.


Ecology Resources for Kids
Learn more about ecology and how you can become an ecologist.  Links to an ecology project and ecology club ideas.

Help the scientists chase down the facts
 

The Ecological Society of America
This site is packed full of information, and we've got links to some of the specific information scattered throughout our site.  Go into the main page (above) and click your way around and investigate the investigators.  Or you can start off here:
What do ecologists do? Click on individual names to learn more about each scientist's career.  Clicking "next" at the bottom of the page brings up the next group of scientists.
SCIENCE
 

Science is described as:  "knowledge or a system of knowledge"
(Merriam-Webster)

Science is an ongoing process of a systematized, orderly accumulation of data and understanding, based upon scientific observation, experiment and testing.  Much science is based on theories, or scientifically acceptable explanations of things.

hypothesis A possible explanation based upon what we know.
(example:  What caused the extinction of dinosaurs?)
theory Unproven, but scientific analysis indicates it is most likely true.
examples: 
Einstein's Theory of Relativity
Quantum theory
law Found to be true in all scientific tests conducted 
within the range of our knowledge and capability.
(example:  The Law of Gravity)
note: for official definitions, search various dictionaries here

Within the range of our knowledge and capability...We know much more today about such things as planets, living organisms, medicine, and Earth's interior than our ancestors did in the past.  They based their knowledge on what was previously thought to be true and their own observations and experimentation.  Others came along with more "ifs," "ands," and "buts," and applied further scientific observation, experimentation and testing, along with more technology (new inventions such as space telescopes and computers), and modified and expanded our base of scientific knowledge. Today's scientists, like previous scientists, also utilize past knowledge and apply their own theories and current scientific methods available to them to come up with explanations, and hopefully facts which can be proven in all cases (well, in all cases that we know of up to this time).   What we accept as fact today may very well change in the future; probably will change in the future (that's our theory).    Scientific knowledge is ever-changing as we continue to develop greater technology to help us analyze information.

Science is not based upon the studies of one individual, but upon the scientific studies of all those in pursuit of knowledge, both past and present.  Sharing in our scientific research and information regarding issues relating to the health of the environment, Earth and living organisms is a major advancement in our progress toward sustainability.  Right now scientists around the world are working feverishly to try and understand the workings of the Earth system, global climate, global warming and cooling, the hydrological (water) cycle, the  carbon cycle, and the effects human activities are having on natural processes.  Take a look at what's going on in international research on our Global Change page - it's phenomenal!  And the scientific community is going to need the youth of today to be educationally prepared to continue increasing our understanding and putting  more pieces of the puzzle together in our ongoing pursuit of knowledge and search for solutions toward a sustainable world community.


Earth Science
any of the sciences that deal with the Earth and one or more of its parts

ge- or geo- Earth, ground, soil
geoscience The sciences dealing with the Earth (geology, geography, geophysics, geochemistry).
But they don't have to begin with "geo."  There is hydrology, soil science, botany, oceanography and many other fields of science that pertain to Earth.
geology A science that deals with the history of the Earth and its life; especially as recorded in rocks.
(also, a study of the solid matter of a celestial body)

paleontology
 

The study of ancient life on Earth
Want to go on a fossil hunt?  Let's
Follow a Fossil

paleoecology

The study of ancient environments and their relationships to ancient plants and animals.

We investigate the past to help us learn what worked - and what didn't work.
We learn from the history of Earth, from the fossils in rocks, and from our mistakes in the past.
This helps us make better decisions now for the future.

"Wander back through the ages to an alien planet called Earth. Learn about dinosaurs, bizarre plants, fossils, soils, geography, geology, and more."

The American Quaternary Association (AMQUA) is a professional organization of North American scientists devoted to studying all aspects of the Quaternary Period, about the last 2 million years of Earth history.
Quaternary related links

Geologic Time Chart - Take a trip back in time, 4,500 million years ago.
Below the color-coded chart is a color graphic of various colored spaces in a straight line representing time periods.  Note the small black space - that represents from today all the way back to 11,000 years ago.  11,000 years in that tiny space!  Our average lifespan is but a speck in the history of Earth.  From 5 million years ago back to 23 million years ago is considered "moderately recent"!

Stream Biology and Ecology "No ecosystem can be studied in isolation."
Wonderful educational material about the ecology of streams and rivers written by a biologist.  We have this link on our WaterWebs page, but we thought it appropriate to list here also since it explains the scientific method of study in their Science link).
(Under the various sections, click the "Tell me more" buttons, and scroll all the way to the bottom of the pages so you won't miss anything)
Getting Your Own Lab Coat (Nat'l Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)
Scientists tell you about their interesting work in different fields.  Careers in health and science are interesting, fun, and rewarding.  Links to other resources are provided.
Campus Ecology
Helping transform the nation's college and university campuses into living models of an ecologically sustainable society.  Conservation projects, scholarships, internships, and training for a new generation of environmental leaders.  Established and supported by the National Wildlife Federation.
Environmental Science Major--Overview and Introduction  
(Cornell University - Center for the Environment)
If you are thinking about majoring in the environmental sciences in your educational endeavors, scroll through this list of course requirements and options to give you an idea of the broad variety of disciplines involved in environmental science.
Note:  There are many fine institutions offering environmental education and we are not promoting one over another.  High school students should start preparing early and investigate all their options.
Unity College  A small independent college in rural Maine which focuses on education in the fields of environmental science, natural resource management, wilderness-based outdoor recreation leadership, and related fields. 
Career Resource Center - Start preparing now developing skills and values to work in the environmental fields.  Hiking, swimming, map and compass reading, tracking animals, and bird and plant identification are some of the skills you can work on yourself.  Links to information and directories related to  employment and internships (states, federal, overseas, seasonal/full time, environmental sciences and general).
Learning Skills Resources provides links to help you become "more efficient and effective learners."  Scroll down the list and you will find some great resources, like help on procrastination!  So what are you waiting for?
Student Conservation Association
Want to work with conservation professionals and count Orcas from a kayak off Alaska, be part of an archaeological survey team in New Mexico, be a wildlife intern in a national park, build nature trails in the mountains?  See what opportunities are available in the environmental and conservation services.

Students Spend Summer in Forests - MSNBC report
Click on the video and listen to what students have to say about spending a month deep inside a national park forest working on projects to help the environment.

Ecological studies in the Amazon

LBA Ecology Project in Amazonia
Large-scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA)

"First-of-a-kind" research has begun in the Amazon rainforest sponsored by NASA and the Brazilian government.  Over 150 scientists and students will participate from various countries in a cooperative effort to study and investigate the region's impact on global change, and develop information for sustainable resource management solutions. Extensive research will be conducted on the water/nutrients/carbon cycle, land-use (such as logging and pastures), and many other projects pertaining to the hydrology, meteorology and ecology of this massive ecosystem.  A tower has been constructed for field researchers to climb up into the high canopy of the rainforest.

In left frame:
Read the Introduction
Click into Education/Outreach and view the Slide Show
(in English, PortuguÍs or EspaŮol)
As this research develops, there will be more information available on their site.

 


The only way to have real success in science ... is to describe the evidence very
carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you
must try to explain what's good about it and what's bad about it equally. In science
you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty. 

--Richard Feynman 

 

To be able to help our planet, it is important for everyone on Earth
to learn as much as we can about what our planet needs for its environment
to allow its natural life-giving processes to continue.

 

Northern Spotted Owl says: "Give a Hoot for Natural Resources"
Click on the OWL if you give a "hoot" about natural resources
We need to know
which ones are renewable and which ones are not renewable


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