ESA Endorses Four-Dimensional Ecology Education Framework

January 14, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contacts: Teresa Mourad, 202-833-8775, gro.asenull@aseret
                 Alison Mize, 202-833-8773, gro.asenull@nosila


The Ecological Society of America announces a Society-endorsed undergraduate education framework, termed the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) framework.

The 4DEE framework positions ESA as a leader in educational programming and/or professional development, provides opportunities to expand membership and partnerships, and can serve as a foundation for the development of K-12 educational standards. Practitioners of ecology – such as consultants and others seeking certification – can use the framework to guide their professional preparation in the discipline.

“This framework incorporates three decades of discussion regarding the key ideas in modern ecological science that can be included in undergraduate curriculum, as well as a recognition of recent pedagogical advancements,” said Pamela Templer of Boston University and ESA Vice President of Education and Human Resources.

The framework has several prospective audiences and potential applications. At the foreground are faculty, curriculum designers, administrators, education researchers, and students. The framework would be particularly useful to instructors whose undergraduate or graduate training did not include a heavy emphasis in ecology. It is intended to encourage the idea that ecology should be taught and learned through multiple dimensions.

“As a former dean and provost, I know that colleges and universities are under pressure to describe what their students know and can do with their education,” explained Laura Huenneke, ESA President. “This framework will help faculty make a case for ecology programs and help administrators make resource allocation decisions to support those programs.”

Wilkes University students learning how to key out vascular plant species in a bog, and sampling vegetation plots associated with a natural gas pipeline, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Photos courtesy of Kenneth Klemow.

Collectively containing 21 topics or “elements”, the four dimensions include: Core Ecological Concepts (the hierarchy of individuals to the biosphere), Ecology Practices (skills that ecologically literate people should have), Human-Environment interactions, and Cross-Cutting Themes like scale, evolution, and disturbance.

“The 4DEE process has only just started,” stated George Middendorf of Howard University and chair of the 4DEE Task Force. “Our next step is to create an implementation plan to ensure ongoing support and periodic review of the 4DEE framework”.

The endorsement of the 4DEE framework by the ESA’s Governing Board represents a significant forward leap in defining ecological literacy. ESA hopes that it gains widespread use and realizes its full potential.




The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at