Ecological restoration (pictured here, sand dune restoration conducted by NH Sea Grant in New Hampshire, USA) is a form of solution science. (Image Credit: Caitlin Mandeville., CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Shining a Brighter Light on Solution Science in Ecology (2020) Doubleday & Connell, One Earth, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2019.12.009
These days, it can feel hard to go even a day without thinking about the many environmental challenges facing the world. Climate change, habitat degradation, species extinctions… it can all feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. In fact, many of us ecologists chose careers in this field because we hope to contribute to solving these problems. There is no doubt that many of the questions investigated by ecologists have direct relevance to our ability to live more sustainably on earth. But how often do ecologists make the leap from basic ecological knowledge to the ways that this knowledge can be used to make a positive difference in the world?
In a January 2020 publication, authors Doubleday and Connell calculated the percentage of articles published in top ecology journals that have a clear focus on solving environmental problems and found that only 14% of top ecology articles focus on what they call “solution science”.
As in nature, its often beneficial for researchers with very different perspectives to bring their distinct backgrounds together (Image Credit: Rickard Zerpe, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Guest post by Rachel Kelly of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, Tasmania.
Collaboration with other disciplines and knowledges is central to ecology’s capacity to contribute to addressing sustainability challenges in our world today. Interdisciplinary research involves different disciplines working together to integrate their knowledges and methods to meet shared research goals and achieve a real synthesis of approaches. It connects previously disconnected ideas, concepts and resources, and can be a rewarding experience to share collective interest in learning and understanding new perspectives.
Image Credit: Liliann Eidem, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped
The concept of interdisciplinarity (essentially, scientists from different backgrounds working together to solve scientific questions) has played a major role in the development of ecology, and science in general, in the last few decades. As odd as it sounds, working across disciplines, even those as closely related as population and behavioural ecology, wasn’t a regular occurrence. Papers with one author were fairly commonplace.
Ecology is a discipline that is constantly evolving. I spoke to (pictured from left to right) Madhur Anand, Andrew Hendry and Paul Hebert, as well as Mark Davis, Amy Austin and Bill Sutherland about the biggest changes they’ve seen in their careers (Image Credits: Karen Whylie, Guelph University, Andrew Hendry; CC BY-SA 2.0)
With so much of ecology focused on how the world around us is changing, it should come as no surprise that the discipline itself has undergone considerable transformation since its inception. And as with the world around us, many facets of ecology which are now commonplace were once a thing of the past.
Over the last 10 months, my colleague Kate Layton-Matthews and I have had the fortune to speak with a number of influential researchers in ecology, and there’s one question that we’ve always asked them: how has ecology changed over the course of your career? Here are some of their responses.
Image Credit: Karen Whylie, University of Guelph, CC BY 2.0
When I interview ecologists, there are two themes I always end up gravitating towards; how the earth is changing and how to improve scientific communication with the general public. So when my colleague Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley mentioned she’d recently spoken to a global change ecologist who also happened to be a poet, I jumped at the opportunity.
Professor Madhur Anand is the co-author of Climate Change Biology and the author of A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes, a collection of poems which bridge the gap between poetry and science. Along her way to picking up two Canada Research Chairs and the ICCC Female Professional of the Year award, she has worked with theoretical physicists, poets and mathematicians. I spoke to Madhur about interdisciplinarity, using poetry to connect with the general public, and the future of the planet.