How do we ensure the future of our discipline is vibrant? Student reflections on careers and culture of ecology


Ecology must attract and retain diverse talented people to produce innovative research and relevant solutions to 21st-century environmental problems. Careers and culture form the foundation of scientific advancement, and substantial progress has been made over recent decades in both realms. Yet, important challenges persist in expanding career paths, inclusion of underrepresented groups, and communication with the public. The ESA Student Section organized a horizon scanning exercise to address the following goals: (1) to identify challenges that 21st-century ecologists contend with or expect to contend with in careers and outreach to society, (2) to anticipate opportunities to help ecologists meet challenges, and (3) to identify concrete steps that could be taken by individual laboratories, institutions, and the ESA to foster progress. In spring 2016, the ESA Student Section solicited input from student members and organized a working group to assess the state of the discipline and to envision how we might cultivate a more inclusive and effective community. We identified three major challenges. First, PhDs are produced faster than academic positions become available and disconnects between academia and other sectors may keep early-career ecologists from realizing the breadth of available positions. We propose an online jobs hub to make non-academic sectors more accessible to ecologists. We also suggest students develop skills portfolios to prepare for non-academic positions. Second, the composition of people who are ecologists differs from broader society, partially due to implicit biases and institutional barriers. We propose steps to reduce attrition of diversity in ecology that include countering implicit biases and creating mentorship networks. We offer steps to improve recruitment by increasing awareness of ecology among high school students and undergraduates and providing opportunities to engage in ecological research. Finally, ecology is only relevant if the public perceives it to be. We must improve science communication and begin cultivating trust. We propose that ad hoc communication by all ecologists is insufficient; translational ecologists should be hired in every department and formal training in translational ecology is necessary. We hope this paper catalyzes critical thinking and partnerships among students, professional ecologists, and the ESA to ensure the future of ecology is vibrant.




Hansen, Winslow D. , Joshua P. Scholl, Amanda E. Sorensen, Kelsey E. Fisher, Jessica A. Klassen, Leonardo Calle, Gaurav S. Kandlikar, Nicholas Kortessis, Dion C. Kucera, Danielle E. Marias, Desiree L. Narango, Kayleigh O\'Keeffe, Wilnelia Recart, Elizabeth Ridolfi, and Monika E. Shea. "How do we ensure the future of our discipline is vibrant? Student reflections on careers and culture of ecology." Ecosphere 9, no. 2 (February 2018). DOI:10.1002/ecs2.2099.
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