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Four-Dimensional Ecology Education Framework | 4DEE

Ecology Curricular Framework Endorsed by the Ecological Society of America

Explore the 4DEE Framework



The Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework Initiative has its roots in 30 years of debate among ecologists and ESA leaders calling for a framework for eco-literacy that would provide basic comprehension of necessary ecological terminology and concepts to improve informed public policy and other ecological problem-solving decisions. Read more about the 4DEE Framework.

What’s New?

The ecology education world is about to go multidimensional with the help of a $499,700 award from the National Science Foundation to support ESA’s new research coordination network, Transforming Ecology Education to 4D.

Learn More!

Looking for guidance to get your courses in four dimensions? Here’s a brochure on Transforming Ecology Courses to 4D


What is 4DEE?

The four dimensions of the framework collectively contain 21 general topics (termed “elements”).  The dimension of Core Ecological Concepts follows the widely recognized hierarchy of ecology presented in most ecology textbooks, including individuals, populations, communities, ecosystems, landscapes, biomes and biosphere.  Ecology Practices include approaches and methods used in doing ecology, e.g. natural history, fieldwork, quantitative reasoning, computational thinking, designing and critiquing investigations, and collaboration. Human-Environment Interactions include dependence on the environment, human-accelerated environmental change, how humans can use ecological systems to shape and manage resources/ecosystems/the environment, ethical dimensions and communicating and applying ecology.  Cross-Cutting Themes include structure & function, pathways & transformations of matter and energy, systems, and spatial & temporal scales and processes (including evolution). Integration across the dimensions is a hallmark of the framework. The ultimate goal is for the four dimensions to be taught as integrated units, courses, and curricula.

ESA’s 4DEE Framework is a dynamic set of ideas that must be revisited and revised periodically.  It is not a mandate, but rather provides a set of recommendations for ecology curricula. The framework can be used both as a benchmark for instructors currently teaching undergraduate General Ecology and as a guide for instructors developing new courses. We look forward to learning with the community of ecology educators about how the framework is useful and brought to life through a diversity of approaches to teaching and learning.

Endorsing the Framework

On November 14, 2018, the Governing Board of the Ecological Society of America voted unanimously to endorse the 4DEE framework!

Read the press release


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If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming Transforming Ecology Education activities please use the sign-up form below.

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