By Camilla Bertolini @CamiBe90
Next time you are out ask someone if they know what ecology is. I assure you, some of the answers will have to do with saving the planet from pollution, climate change etc. Some of the answers I receive when asking this question at career days in school have mostly to do with being environmentally friendly. Most people assume ecology= tree hugging.
Even a quick Internet search of “ecology” will find you two answers to what ecology is and it includes “the political movement concerned with the protection of the environment”.
However most ecologists would not identify themselves as politicians (or at least, not me!). But if it is not a political or a “tree-hugging” movement, what is it? And how can it be explained in simple words?
Ecology as a term can be confusing, the way I see it has a very wide meaning, being the study of how organisms (from the smallest unicellular to large mammals) interact with each other (many possible interactions in there) and with their surrounding environment. This means that ecologists could be working on entirely different systems from each other. However it also has a very unique meaning as all ecologists have a common goal. The purpose of ecology is to provide knowledge about the way the world works and provide evidence on the interdependence between everything living in this world (including human’s dependence on natural resources), and with this greater understanding of ecological systems predictions can then be made of the consequences of human activity on the environment.
It is important to spread the real meaning of this word (and stop misusing it!), especially to the newer generations to pass on the knowledge, to form and to encourage future ecologists.
P.s More reasons why ecology is important can be found on the British Ecological Website, which also contains plenty of useful resources for outreach/school activities! (http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/about-ecology/).