What is Ecology? (with photos)

An ecologist studies how organisms interact with the environment.

Ecology is a branch of biology that focuses on the examination of living organisms in the natural environment. Ecologists observe how organisms interact with the environment and with each other, and they study the complex and interconnected systems that influence life on Earth. Ecology is also sometimes known as environmental biology, and there are a number of subdisciplines within this branch of science that address specific topics of interest, such as the relationship between humans and the natural environment.

Some ecologists study the relationship between humans and nature.

Ecology researchers can study individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. At each level, there are more things to learn. The natural environment is often heavily interconnected; researchers can focus on a single population of plants or animals, for example, and find lots of material to study, from how that population shapes the physical environment to how other organisms interact with it. For example, ruminant populations can create paths and troughs, shaping the land, and they can also influence plant populations by eating some plant species, leaving others alone, and excreting seeds that plants can use to spread.

Ecology is sometimes known as environmental biology.

In the 20th century, ecologists became especially interested in human activities that had a deleterious effect on the environment, recognizing that humans could have a tremendous and not always beneficial influence on nature. For example, dumping pollutants into a river can cause a variety of changes in nature, just as paving a swamp can eliminate a habitat and put pressure on the animals and plants that are used to living there.

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Ecologists can study the plants and animals in a particular forest.

Ecologists are often interested in looking at entire ecosystems and studying all the organisms that live in and influence them. Each ecosystem hosts unique species of plants and animals that have adapted to the environment and to each other, and studying this can provide scientists with insights into the history of that ecosystem and the evolutionary roots of the animals that live in it. Ecology can also be studied in urban environments.

The study of ecology is not limited to the terrestrial environment; Marine environments, lakes and streams can also provide a great deal of food for reflection and inspiration for study. The marine environment in particular is not very well understood, with researchers constantly finding that there is more to learn about the ocean, the creatures that live in it, and its underlying geography and geology. For example, for centuries people assumed that the ocean floor was inactive and murky, but in the 20th century, researchers discovered areas of biological activity around hydrothermal vents, with organisms that adapted to the dark, high-pressure, low-oxygen environment. from the deep sea.

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