Each day the sunrises and we begin our daily grind, we inevitably will be in touch with the ecology that surround us. When we run the water to brush our teeth and take our showers, when we get in our vehicles and drive to work, when we come home and check our email on our computers, when we call our friends on our cell phones, and when we dispose of our trash throughout our day.
Ecology is the study of our earth – it’s relationships with organisms and their environment, and how those relationships affect the planet. There is a lot we can do as a species to help our environment sustain itself. And a great way to begin is to get educated.
Define Ecology / It’s All About Relationships
As defined by Wikipedia, Ecology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interactions with the environment. Ecology as a word is derived from two Greek words “oikos” which means house or household and “logia” which means the study of.
Additionally Wikipedia says that the concerns of ecology as a field is the network or inter-relationship of all organisms at varying scales of organization.
Some of these inter-relationships include external relations and interactions between and among organisms, life processes which result and explain various methods of adaptations, the flow of materials and energy through living communities, successional development of ecosystems, and the abundance and distribution of biodiversity in relation to the environment.
Define Ecology / Let’s Get Nitty-Gritty
Ecology as a word is most often confused with environment. It is however an entirely different from environmental studies in that it is one of the few academic pursuits that are concerned with holism. Environment describes all external or abiotic factors of an organism like temperature range where they thrive, chemistry that is optimum to them, and other factors that exist external to the organism.
Ecology also seeks to describe internal or biotic factors such as genetic factors, cells, members of species, and other organisms sharing the habitat with them. Ecology is also distinct from natural history which deals on with the descriptive study of organisms.
Define Ecology / Ecology vs Environment
The more apparent distinction that ecology has over other physical disciplines concerned with the environment is the holism that is central to ecology. For instance there are phenomena that are in a continual state of flux occurring from the lowest to the galactic scales of the environment.
These occurrences require different scientific models and different sets of scientific explanations which operate with synergistic properties or can be summed up as “the sum being greater than the parts”. A distinction between environment and ecology needs to be realized at the conceptual level for even a basic understanding of the emerging phenomena. For instance, for an organism everything that exist outside of it is part of its environment but some levels are obviously more important and others less so.
Define Ecology / Let’s Get Nitty-Gritty
The most common ecological systems that are being studied are the ecosystems that most accessible. These ecosystems are at the local or community systems level. Examples of these are studies of primary production in wetlands or measurement and analysis of predator-prey relationship that can affect amphibian bio-mass.
These are all local level studies that also reflect the microcosm. There are dynamics that also affect energy and nutrient flow all the way up to the planetary scale. This totality of global ecosystems is known as the biosphere. Ecological theory called the Gaia Hypothesis is used to explain phenomena that seem regulatory and emerge seemingly without cause.
This hypothesis is an example of a holistic focus by ecology that can be used to explain an evolving and self regulating planetary hypothesis that is entirely different form the set of parameters that is used to measure the ecosystem of a wetland.
For more information on ecology and keepin’ it green just use the following links: