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What Ecologists Study at University

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There are tons of interesting courses that can be explored in the universities around the world today. Every student has to face a hard decision of choosing a specialty for further studies after completing high school. While Medicine, Engineering, Law and Business courses are the most popular among first-year university students, there’s one more specialty to consider. As we focus more and more on the environment, ecologists are growing in number. The study of ecology promises to boost our view and perspective of life because it tends to focus on the process that helps all living things to survive – interaction.

Ecology: The Course

The word “Ecology” is created from the combination of two Greek words: “oikos” (environment) and “logos” (the knowledge/research of). In simple terms, ecology refers to the study of the environment – nature, generally. However, a closer look at this discipline reveals a wide variety of lessons to be learned. These lessons, derived from the various scopes of the science, help us to understand the different ways we relate to our surroundings.

The study of ecology is a task that should be handled seriously. Interactions between plants, animals and their surroundings differ from time to time and play a major determining factor in the survival of certain species. Nature has made a good number of flora and fauna species interdependent for food, protection, and survival. Understanding the connection that these groups, as well as humans, share with the environment is what ecology science entails.

The Opportunities

What jobs can be secured with an ecology degree?  After becoming an ecologist, there are two wide fields to dive into – academics and research. The academic side involves being a teacher of subjects like Biology or other related disciplines while research consists of the job of an ecology scientist – complete, constant and full-time devotion to studying flora and fauna and their respective environments.

What do Ecologists study in the University?

If you want to be an ecology guru, you must first start at the university. So what do ecologists study? Below are the basics of Ecology:

1. Environmental Systems

Ecologists are taught about environmental systems in the classroom. An environmental system is made up of various ecosystems with their biotic and abiotic components. For instance, when we look at the wildlife ecosystem, we see the fauna that comes under this category, as well as non-living determinants like climate, soil composition, etc. The same category of components would be studied when looking at a forest ecosystem.

But there’s an important point to remember – the ecologist mainly studies the INTERACTIONS between these living and non-living factors. He wants to know how they affect one another by their activities. An ecologist’s studying focus can be compared to a business management study of how a producer and a consumer interact, for example, communication between services that help me write my research paper and various students. How do they affect each other? What happens if environmental factors act one way, how will flora and/or fauna react? Or vice versa. These aspects are covered in the research of environmental systems.

There are a lot of competencies that you need to develop to understand the research methodologies that will be used. Statistics is an especially important concept. If you struggle with basic algebra, then you may need to get maths tutoring.

2. Levels of Organizations

At different levels of organization, the interaction tends to be different. The levels often included are, from the simplest to the most complex,:

Individual -> Population -> Community -> Ecosystem.

Without any doubt, the interaction of biotic components with their surroundings at the community level will differ from the one at the population level. These interactions can also be studied by choosing certain markers that provide information about the living things’ response to the influence of their non-living counterparts.

For example, in a wildlife ecosystem, behavior is something that can be accurately studied on an individual or population level. Mortality and birth rates, however, require more than an individual level. They require something higher, like a population level in order to be fully accessed.

As another example, when studying an ecosystem including interactions between humans and their environment, markers are used to study the interactions that include population counts, demographic factors, comparison of various indexes over the years in relation to the settlement of humans in an area, etc.

3. Resource Availability

One other thing that ecologists are taught about is studying the effects of resource availability on the ecosystem’s biotic components. They research how the increase or decrease of certain natural resources affects living organisms. One of the things they focus on is how natural disasters like earthquakes cause major disruptions in already established ecosystems. Additionally they may focus on abiotic factors like sudden increase in temperature or increase in humidity and how those changes affect various populations. The complexities involved in such interactions form the core content of an ecologist’s area of expertise.

4. A Better Future

This perhaps is one of an ecologist’s greatest pursuits – studying how our environment interacts with us and us with it such that our use of resources does not lead to shortage. This can shape future decisions made by governments and industrial corporations so that we leave an abundance of resources for coming generations.

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