Monday 8 August 2011

Ecology as a branch of biological science

Here is a link to a document I once wrote for some Masters Students who had all done Arts degrees but were interested to find out more about the scientific method.
It has occurred to me that my training as a field biologist has given me a particularly science focused idea of what the word 'ecology' actually means. To me it is simply the science (by which I mean nothing more sinister than the study of) relationship. And since it is living organisms which relate in the most complex ways, ecology is therefore about answering fundamental questions about the nature of relationship, and complex relationships at that - for example between species in a food web, or between sources and sinks within an elemental cycle such as the Carbon or Nitrogen cycle. Equally it could be a greater or lesser scales, from living molecules and their interactions within the complex ecosystem of a single cell, or cycles of energy, nutrient and mineral flux between habitats, ecosystems and biomes.