OOS 80-6
Do valuations of ecological concepts by contemporary ecologists vary with geography?

Thursday, August 13, 2015: 3:20 PM
340, Baltimore Convention Center
William A. Reiners, Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Derek S. Reiners, Dept. of Public Affairs, Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers, FL
Steven D. Prager, NA, CIAT-International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, Colombia
Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY

We hypothesized that ecological, and socio-economic characteristics of states might influence the professional style of ecologists working in those states. We assume that ecologists are diverse in their knowledge and foci in every region, but that employment opportunities, and thus training emphases together with retirement residences in the area of one’s work, might influence the kinds of ecologists of a state. There are many ways to characterize the “practices” of ecologists but this study took advantage of ecologists’ rankings of ecological concepts with respect to their utility in their professional lives. Data are from our online survey all ESA members conducted for two weeks in October-November 2014. Besides ranking the utility of 70 randomly presented concepts (of a total of 130 concepts), the respondents supplied professional information on themselves including the state--or if not the U.S.--the country in which they resided.


Among the 1,182 respondents providing location information (from a total of 1,324), 82% were from the U.S.,16% lived in other parts of North America (including Central America), Europe and Australia. The top ten concepts of the non-U.S. group had an 80% overlap with the top-ten U.S. group indicating a high level of international congruence  in concept valuation.

The top ten most highly ranked concepts by the U.S. respondents were, in descending order: scales, ecosystem, habitat, species, disturbance, organism, population, community, competition, and species life history. Differences between states rankings were complex. For example, states with the high population densities (NJ, RI and MA) were more convergent with the national average but also typically supplied more respondents who contributed to the national average. The rankings of high density states were also more similar to one another than were for the low density states (AK, WY, MT) with one another, but, again, the high density states had greater numbers of respondents.

Subtle differences may yet be uncovered by aggregating states, and comparing those aggregated ratings against aggregated types of concepts. Such analysis is yet to come.  At this time, differences appear to be subtle and prone to complications due to correlated differences in respondent numbers. Geographic effects may, in fact, be slight compared with homogenization influences.  Ecologists do differ and can be organized into different professional guilds on several grounds, but these guilds may be geographically well distributed.