Where do we go from here? Early-career perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Ecology in the 21st century
Few disagree that unprecedented changes are underway in ecosystems globally, and that the consequences of these changes are likely to structure (and re-structure) politics, industry, and education in the coming century. In higher education specifically, recent reports suggest that educators and administrators are faced with a confluence of challenges. Both scientific understanding of natural systems and the tools used to arrive at that understanding are rapidly increasing in complexity. This rapid increase in knowledge about the natural world is coupled with increases in the number of students pursuing degrees and the stagnation of public funding for research and education. There are more skills and information than ever for educators to learn and teach and fewer per-capita financial resources available for them to do so.
What perspectives can early career ecologists contribute to the ongoing efforts to re-tool higher education in light of environmental, political, and social change? Importantly, how can those just beginning their careers contribute to the efforts of those in senior positions of leadership to: improve professional training, better apply research to societal needs, and better integrate scientific with non-scientific expertise?
Based on the recommendations of ESA's Ecology for a New Generation Committee and surveys on graduate students and postdocs in Ecology, done by the ESA Early Career Ecologist section and the International Network of Next-Generation Ecologists, this talk will give an overview of some of the suggestions made by early career ecologists for ways to help improve scientific training, the application of research, and the communication of scientific understanding. It will conclude with recommendations on how higher education administrators can help shape the future of ecological research and teaching.