Proud to be ecologists (and students)

When we were introduced to the concept of this ESA blog, we were asked to write about what makes us proud to be ecologists. That got us to thinking, why are we ecologists? Why do we put in the long hours in the field, in the lab, and at the computer? We have entered a field where we have very little chance of ever earning a lot of money. But of course, work is not all about money. And if you’re an ecologist, you have no doubt decided that for yourself.

But back to our question, why are we ecologists and why are we proud of it? We tend to think a lot about service, which isn’t something that grad school programs seem to emphasize to budding scientists. We like research, writing, statistics, and working with plants, birds, and prairie dogs as much as the next guy. But we are probably most proud to be ecologists because of the service we are able to provide to society and to each other.

Ecologists can communicate new revelations in science to the public, often impacting on-the-ground action, whether local, national, or global. We can promote environmental stewardship. We can inform people about their environment and train them to address their own local environmental problems. We can help write public policy. We can collaborate with one another and train new ecologists. Perhaps most importantly, we can open people’s eyes to the wonder and beauty of the natural world around them by engaging children and adults through school visits, citizen science projects, and well-crafted stories in the popular media.

We feel that these services, and many others like them, are among the most important reasons to be ecologists. We would like to mention that the activities of the Student Section focus on many of these services. We provide an outlet to help students communicate and serve. Over the past few years, our section has grown and so have our activities. At the last ESA annual meeting, many of our sessions and workshops were based on service activities, such as starting a conservation organization or communicating with the public. In all cases, the organizers of the sessions were providing an invaluable service to the ESA. If you are interested in helping out, feel free to peruse our website ( and contact us if you like.

Contributed by Abraham Miller-Rushing and Elizabeth Harp

Current and past chairs of the ESA Student Section