MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: I would like to know what ecologists do????

Date: Mon Apr 17 21:56:02 2000
Posted By: Yvonne Buckley, Grad student, Biology, Imperial College London
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 955996784.En

Hi Cody,
Ecologists study how different organisms (plants, animals, bacteria, funghi etc.) interact with one another and their environment. This is a pretty huge area of study so generally different ecologists specialise on different topics, I'm a plant ecologist and I look at the way plant populations change in response to what's going on around them in their environment. Biochemical ecologists look at the different chemicals produced by plants and animals in response to things like attack from predators, conservation ecologists look at how to manage an endangered species and its habitat to prevent it from going extinct.

The subject of Ecology was only named in 1869 (by a scientist called E.H. Haekel) and he got the word from the greek "oikos" meaning house and "logos" meaning discourse or study. So the Ecology is concerned with studying the "houses" of all organisms, or how they live and interact with eachother and their environment. Another definition of ecology is that it is concerned with "the abundance and distribution of organisms", how many of a particular species and where they are.

Ecologists have made many important contributions to society, they contribute to knowledge about conservation of species, agriculture, control of pests and weeds on crops and in natural ecosystems, sustainable harvesting of wild plants and animals and the improvement of polluted soil and water. Due to our continuing problems with the environment (global warming, pollution, species extinction, overexploitation of fish-stocks, the introduction of genetically modified species and biological invasions) the role of ecologists in society is going to become more important as they help us to understand our impact on the planet we live on and how we can maintain it into the future.


Yvonne Buckley

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