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Contemporary Visions of Progress in Ecology and Thoughts for the Future

Brian M Starzomski, University of British Columbia
Bradley J Cardinale, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jennifer A Dunne, Santa Fe Institute
Melinda J Hillery, Centre for Ecosystem Management, Edith Cowan University
Carrie A Holt, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
Meg A Krawchuk, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta
Melissa Lage, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
Sean McMahon, Complex Systems Group, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee
Michael C Melnychuk, Fisheries Centre, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia

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Abstract

Although ecological research is progressing rapidly, the answers to certain key questions continue to elude us. This paper considers several of the contemporary challenges facing ecology. (1) Terminology is voluminous and often poorly defined, resulting in inefficient communication. (2) The concept of scale affects our inferences about system structure and function, requiring us to continue an almost heuristic investigation of breaks, domains, and integration. New tools that more explicitly incorporate scalar issues will need to be developed for progress to take place in the field of ecology. (3) Increasingly, it is expected that applied questions will be solved in less than a year. This demand for solutions from ecologists often produces short-term and inadequate responses. (4) How can ecologists improve communication between subdisciplines, with undergraduate students, and with the public? How will ecology be done in the future, and by whom? We provide some background to these observations and questions, and offer some potential solutions from the viewpoint of young practicing ecologists.

Key words

cross-discipline research, foundations of ecology, information-sharing database, scale, statistics, terminology
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087