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Ecology students today will be the leaders of tomorrow. We are the ones who will steward ecology as a career into the 21st century. We will be the ones who ensure ecology is relevant to broader society. EcoFutures was the initiative launched by the Student Section to begin anticipating that future. This initiative has resulted in excellent discussions as well as many of the resources you can now take advantage of on our website. To Learn more about Ecofutures, continue reading below. 

What were the goals of EcoFutures?

ESA’s 101st year called for reflection. Ecological research has a rich history of resolving complex questions about our natural world. Yet, as Earth enters the Anthropocene, 21st-century ecologists will likely contend with novel ecological realities, emerging career challenges, and an uncertain funding environment. The goal of EcoFutures was to stimulate long-term thought about how to 1) ensure ecology remains a successful and fulfilling career path and 2) increase the relevance of ecology to broader society by encouraging and supporting responsible environmental-decision making. We identified the top challenges that we as 21st-century ecologists may contend with and anticipated emerging opportunities we may capitalize on in our careers and outreach to society.

How are we accomplishing this?

At the center of the EcoFutures initiative is a horizon-scanning exercise. We asked ecology students to submit short descriptions of the most important challenges they expect to face and new opportunities they expect to emerge in their career path and outreach to society. A core working group of 25 students then converged in a series of online workshops to prioritize and synthesize across the submissions.

What outcomes are we pursuing and what more can we expect?

We expect several products to develop from the initiative. First, the results of the horizon scanning exercise will be reported in a peer-reviewed paper and at a special session at ESA 2017. We are currently in the process of writing this paper. Second, we are developing resources for posting on our website to aid students in mastering some of the key themes we identified in the horizon scanning exercise. Third, we expect and will encourage additional organically developed products that may come from future working group meetings. Finally, this horizon scanning exercise will help shape the agenda and future activities of the Student Section. The Student Section is here to support you as students. This exercise will provide insights into how we can best fulfill those duties.

What are the major themes driving working groups within EcoFutures?



This working group was convened to investigate communication issues within science and to the broader public.

21st Century Ecologist

This working group discussed what it means to be an ecologist and how the practice of ecology might change over time. 

Career Culture and Diversity

This working group investigated career climate and diversity issues within science and to the broader public.

Careers in Ecology

This working group focused on the diversity of careers open to ecologists and the difficulty students have accessing them.


This working group focused on thinking about where the science of ecology will go in the future.