Are There Any Ecologists in the House?

There are certain scientific disciplines that are well represented in the blogosphere. Bioinformatics comes to mind. As does physics. But these are computer savvy people who probably spend quite a bit of time hooked up to the interwebs. How about scientists that need to get their hands dirty? Like ecologists.

Does anyone know of any good blogs by ecologists about ecology? Not conservation or environmentalism, but ecology. Like population dynamics, landscapes, nutrient cycling, predator-prey interaction. I’ve got a couple in mind, but I want to hear your suggestions.

And if you’re an ecology blogger, post a link in the comments and you’ll be added to the blogroll. Provided you blog about ecology and not just environmentalism/conservation.

That’s not to say that ecologists aren’t computer savvy. Some of the best statisticians I know are ecologists, and modern applied statistics requires a fair bit of computational work. But empirical ecology requires field work, and these folks don’t sit in front of the computer like bioinformaticians and theoretical physicists.


  1. #1 budak
    December 9, 2006

    could I recommed (though it’s quite Southeast Asia focused) the Bird Ecology Blog?

  2. #2 George
    December 9, 2006

    As an ecologist, I’ve been wondering the same thing. I’d love to hear about a good plant/forest ecology blog.

  3. #3 jebyrnes
    December 9, 2006

    It’s interesting you post this, as I’ve just submitted an article to the new Ecological Society of America News and Views blog about just this topic. We’ll see if/when it’s posted. I myself (I’m a graduate student in marine community ecology) keep an research blog going, although it began more as a place to collect notes about my own work. Perhaps it will grow and change in the near future the more that I think about the purpose of science blogs out on the net. I also link to a blog by a intertidal ecologist friend of mine, the invasive species weblog, and endangered ugly things.

  4. #4 Brian X
    December 9, 2006

    Be careful what you wish for. I worked in a bookstore, and well…

    If you go to the ecology section in a bookstore, you’ll find a bizarre combination of classics like Silent Spring combined with insane polemics from both sides of the debate. While the Green side of things is more right than wrong, and the corporate side is more wrong than right, there’s still a lot of emotion and pseudoscience on both sides. An outbreak of ecology blogs would require a very strong bullshit detector indeed.

  5. #5 RPM
    December 9, 2006

    Brian, you’re equating ecology with environmentalism. There are plenty of blogs that deal with environmentalism. I want a blog that deals with the science of ecology.

  6. #6 RPM
    December 9, 2006

    Good links jebyrnes. Thanks.

  7. #7 jebyrnes
    December 9, 2006

    No worries – and I’d love to know what other blogs you have in mind!

  8. #8 postblogger
    December 9, 2006

    There’s also El Gentraso, by John Whitfield, ex-staff writer for Nature. A little infrequent, but I like it…

  9. #9 Daniel Collins
    December 9, 2006

    The Resilience Alliance is a consortium of ecologists and social scientists. Their group blog, Resilience Science (resilience.geog.mcgill.ca/blog), is hosted by Garry Peterson, an ecologist. Other ecologists are involved as well.

  10. #10 jebyrnes
    December 9, 2006

    You may also want to check out the shifting baselines blog which is written by the guy who did the invertebrate zoology classic “Barnacles tell no lies” and more recently A Flock of Dodos. It’s largely related to the sort of Jeremy Jackson worldview that our baseline knowledge of the world’s oceans is constantly changing. A conservation blog to be sure, but it periodically contains some good ecological nuggets.

  11. #11 Julie Stahlhut
    December 9, 2006

    I’m a molecular ecologist, but a hopeless blogger. The problem is that I’m inspired to blog about four or five times a year whether I need to or not. :-)

  12. #12 David Cox
    December 10, 2006

    My work is in the messy fray of the community-at-large, where I try to bring science to issues and decisions that bear on sustainability. I’m an ex-academic ecologist, and so may not qualify for the kind of “scholarly” contributions you seek. I understand we need both. And, I understand the frustration many of us deal with in facing “environmentalism” as it has evolved in our global culture. Now, that’s a topic for somebody to blog on.

  13. #13 J Daley
    December 10, 2006

    While you’re at it, can ecologists and ecology grad students recommend or comment on their past or present grad programs? I’m an undergraduate and I’m trying to find a good program. So far I’ve become interested in Northern Arizona University, primarily because Con Slobodchikoff is there, and of course drooled over the Georgia Institute of Ecology (hamina hamina).

  14. #14 Reed A. Cartwright
    December 11, 2006

    The Georgia Institute of Ecology is top notch, but other than the population ecologists, the faculty and grad program don’t integrate evolution much with their work. There are historical reasons for this: Gene Odum, who founded the Institute and ecosystem ecology, didn’t think evolutionary biology could add anything to his field. Some faculty members like Patty Gowaty are trying very hard to change this.

  15. #15 Reed A. Cartwright
    December 11, 2006

    Oh yeah, Bootstrap Analysis is run by an urban ecologist: http://nuthatch.typepad.com/ba/.

  16. #16 J Daley
    December 11, 2006

    Why in the world did Odum think evolutionary bio didn’t have anything to do with ecosystem ecology? That seems completely counterintuituve to me; aren’t the two inextricably enmeshed?

    I don’t really understand how one could do ecological work and not integrate evolutionary theory into it.

  17. #17 Nuthatch
    December 11, 2006

    Yep, I’m an ecologist, a field ornithologist primarily, with a good smattering of entomology as well, working in a metro area of 4.4 million people. My hands are very, very dirty.

    I’ll even get back to posting about ecology one day soon, after I get a major paper out the door this month.

  18. #18 Reed A. Cartwright
    December 11, 2006

    I dunno why Odum thought that or even exactly what he thought. That was just the explanation given to me by one of my major professors. I interacted mostly with the population ecologists, which meant my view of ecology was very evolution heavy. So I have no idea how the rest of the Institute deals with evolution, other that Dr. Gowaty insisting that they need to do more.

  19. #19 George
    December 12, 2006

    Odum was an ecosystem ecologist. In fairness, you don’t have to know very much about the finer points of evolutionary theory to study, say, nitrogen cycling.

    I’m a community ecologist and while evolutionary theory is there in the foundation, I don’t use it much on a daily basis. No more than organic chemistry, for example.

    But it’s still important to remember that nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of ecology…

  20. #20 Jonathan Badger
    December 12, 2006

    Odum may also have feared that the evolutionary biologists would take over if they were admitted. At many schools you see “Ecology & Evolution” departments that are really evolution/systematics departments with a token ecologist or two. Not that *I* have any problem with that 😉

  21. #21 Reed A. Cartwright
    December 16, 2006

    At UGA, the evolutionary biologists tend to end up in either the Genetics Department or the Plant Sciences Department.

  22. #22 John Whitfield
    December 18, 2006

    I think that maybe the lack of ecology bloggers is part of a wider issue that ecology is a difficult science to present to non-specialists (something I spend a lot of time trying to do). This, I suspect (much more on this here), results from a mixture of the kind of problems that ecologists tend to tackle, the kind of answers they come up with – which, for the fields you mentioned, such as population dynamics and nutrient cycling, tend to be extremely complex, and can seem rather arcane – and the way that people perceive both nature and the science of ecology (the confusion with environmentalism, for example).

  23. #23 Johan A. Stenberg
    January 24, 2007

    I guess this comment is a little late. Anyway, I’m blogging about insect-plant interactions.
    It’s nice to see that you got quite some comments on this post. So maybe the Ecology Blogosphere isn’t as empty/lonely as I suspected.

  24. #24 S K Balachander
    May 5, 2008

    I beleive that we need clear ecologists for the new wave ecology to take on.Dont you ever think,we cant make a computable plant?or the sun never sets on it.The time,money,energy,resources,networking,and hulla about all sciences vs ecology is funny.Ecology per se is cool,connected,holistic,field-based and linked to real life.We need all types on the ecology blog,who miss the big picture!

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