Explaining and Fostering Interest in Ecology

The vitality of the field of ecology depends upon a diverse and well-trained workforce. The ways we frame problems, seek solutions and apply knowledge depend upon having a scientific community with diverse strengths, perspectives, thinking styles, backgrounds, interests and concerns. Yet the current ecology workforce is far more homogeneous than the general population of the U.S. What sparks an interest in ecology in young people, and what experiences and influences along their educational paths nurture or extinguish these flames?

What influences people to become ecologists? We have many ideas about this - family members, mentors, outdoor experiences, early academic success, curiosity, a desire to make a different for people and the planet. Are there distinctive patterns or syndromes of interest in ecology among people, and do these vary in any way that makes sense? What insights can we glean that might be helpful as we design programs to engage young people in ecology?We have been working on a number of projects to delve into these ideas.  

For example, Dr. Alan Berkowitz has been interviewing guests of the Institute to explore how interest in ecology starts, which factors accelerate or direct it and which discourage or constrain it. A semi-structured interview protocol has emerged from this informal work that will be used over the coming years to address these questions in a more formal study of vocational interest in ecology.

Related Projects

Baltimore Partnership for Environmental Science Literacy

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study is the founding partner in the Baltimore Partnership for Environmental Science Literacy. Our focus is to nurture collaborations (both formal and informal) to increase environmental science literacy in the Baltimore region and beyond. 

REU Program

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program - a summer opportunity for environmental science students. 

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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