What is ecology the study of?
Ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms, as well as the patterns that govern the behavior of the biosphere.
Ecology is one of the main ways that humankind grapples with issues such as climate change, ocean acidification and loss of species diversity. Ecology is about more than predicting, cataloging and preventing catastrophe, though. It's a diverse field of study that can lead to work with governments, businesses, charitable organizations or individuals, whether in the field, in an office or in a lab.
Ecology is arguably one of the oldest sciences in the world. Before the first attempt to mix a poultice, understand the stars or set a bone, there was the need to understand annual patterns that affect the movements of animals and the growth of plants. Since the beginning of civilization, humanity has sought to understand its relationship to the living world. Often, we've done so to protect ourselves from that world, but increasingly, the aim is to protect our world from us.
Ecology has been vitally important to the development of complex societies, as it has enabled far greater levels of food production and led to the development of sustainable production systems that can continue as-is, in perpetuity, eliminating the need for a nomadic lifestyle.
Ecology also allows us to indulge in our innate fascination with plants and animals, not just for practical gains but for pure scientific progress as well. Many ecologists have been drawn to the field because of the chance to work with animals, keep animal populations strong and advance our understanding of their biology and living habits.
Some ecologists seek to determine how and why ants build colonies the way they do; others work to improve grain farming's resilience in response to weather changes. It's a diverse field in which talented, hard-working scientists often carve out career paths that are totally unique to them. Because ecology can go in so many different directions, it can open the door to many fascinating and fulfilling occupations.
The structure of an online ecology degree
Pursuing an online ecology degree, such as a degree in conservation biology and ecology, requires a generalized education in the sciences. The first semesters tend to be similar to those of other majors in the life sciences, featuring introductory courses in math, physics, chemistry and biology. Over time, prerequisites focus on increasingly specific forms of chemistry, particularly organic chemistry, as well as the various branches of biology, particularly genetics.
Soon after, students take courses that deal with ecology directly. These courses introduce students to the different types of ecology and can enable them to start pursuing specializations. Some students will gravitate toward more statistics-based areas of study, comparable to an education in applied mathematics, while others will focus on field work in disciplines such as conservation ecology.