Environmental Science: Ecology

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Environmental Science: Ecology essay

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What is environmental science? Is it the way nature plays a role on earth? How about the way around 100 billion animals, fungi, plants, and bacteria live all together on one planet? Or it could be about the soil, water, the mountains, and the wind. Those are all parts of environmental science but, there is a lot more to it. Environmental science is the field of science that studies the interactions of the physical, chemical, and biological components of the environment, the relationships and the effects of these components with the organisms in the environment. Humans have been using environmental products past the 1600s. We began to look more into the science of nature and how humans many alterations of the planet have taken a toll on this planet. Today, in the 21st century, humans are still pinpointing, observing, using trial and error, and constantly collecting data to help us express information to almost 8 billion people on this earth on why environmental science is so important.

What is Ecology? Ecology is a branch of environmental science that investigates the relationships between the environment of an organism and how they interact with one another. Ecology is then broken into smaller studies as well. A study on an individual species would be labeled as autecology and the study of groups of organisms is classified as gynecology. These individual studies expanded from studying bacteria to mushrooms. Each scientist soon became classified by a name, for instance, a scientist who studies plants would be classified as a botanist, ones who study birds are an ornithologist, rocks are a geologist, water is hydrometeorology, insects are entomologists, etc. Ecology is more spoken out to be a new study, dating back to only the 20th century. Nonetheless, the general ideas of ecology have been around for a long time. The ecological thinking developed gradually throughout the millennia and had many connections with other environmental situations and biological disciplines. With, the actual first man to have opened the general idea of ecology may be Aristotle.

It was in the BC era where Aristotle (384-322), an ancient Greek environmental philosopher and scientist who studied the weather, was the starting branch of weather forecasting. Following his studies, a book of weather forecasting came out, “The Book of Sigma”, and following that many other natural philosophers and scientist continued to expand their studies on weather conditions of the atmosphere using many types of instruments, maps, and charts. The natural phenomenon was a direct study that became important to many scientists today. Aristotle and Theophrastus (one of his students) also had a fascination with many species of animals, plants and their interrelationships. Environmental philosophers are concerned with the natural environment and the humans placed within it. They look more in-depth with questions such as,” what is the value of the natural, non-human environment to us, or itself?” and “How should we respond to environmental challenges such as environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change?” (wiki, para. 1)

Aristotle Theophrastus

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aristotle http://www.nndb.com/people/563/000107242/

Having individual studies help scientists to educate themselves more graphically on that specific species and/or natural substances. Eventually, this branched into “where does the species or natural source live?”, “why do they live here and not there?”, or “Why does this plant grow better here than there where those other plants live?”. In the mid-1800, this became a new discipline in the science community called ecology. In ecology, it looks at all biological and any non-biological factors. These factors describe species a little more in-depth and explains both their physical appearance and how they adapt to other ecosystems. Ecosystems are a biological community of interacting organisms and all their physical environments. The term ecology was coined by Ernst Haeckel.

Ernst Haeckel was a German zoologist, biologist, philosopher, physician, professor, and one who named many species throughout the late 1800s – early 1900s. Haeckel was a strong follower of Darwinism and proposed new aspects of evolutionary decent within mankind. Ecology was originally named “oekologie” to the statement, “relation of the animal both to its organic as well as its inorganic environment.” This name came from the Greek word oikos and this means “home” or “place to live” In Ecology it deals with the relationship between species around the world and their physical surroundings, the population numbers between a certain individual and population within distinct species, and how they all interact in the same environment to form an ecosystem. “Ecology has been defined variously as “the study of the interrelationships of organisms with their environment and each other,” as “the economy of nature,” and as “the biology of ecosystems.”(Ecology. Written by Stuart L. Pimm and Robert Leo Smith)

(Feb. 16, 1834-Aug. 9, 1919)


Charles Darwin was an inspiration to many scientists just as one previously mentioned, Ernst Haeckel, He is the well-known “father” of evolution. Though many think he is, he is not the only nor the first man to discover and investigate evolution. He was in fact aided by the previous scientist before him. For example, a man named Jean-Baptiste had a theory of “transmutation of species.” (Wikipedia, para.1) He presented this in 1801. If Organisms change characteristics in order to adapt better to their surrounding environment, they will give those traits to their offspring was Lamarck’s belief.

This was the actual first formed theory of evolution. Charles Darwin soon came along in 1858 with Alfred Russel Wallace (British naturalist, explorer, collector, anthropologist, and political commentator) and published the new evolutionary theory, explained fully in his book “Darwin’s On the Origin of Species”, in 1859. At the time, in the 1800s, valid information on any research was non-reachable and Darwin had to base his findings off any other previous information he was taught. At the Whipple Museum of History of Science at the University of Cambridge, they have a display of Charles Darwin in their explorers and collections section.


(Feb. 12, 1809-Apr. 19, 1882)

“On December 27th, 1831, at the age of 22, Charles Darwin set sail aboard HMS Beagle bound for South America. During the five-year surveying voyage, Darwin collected many specimens of animals, plants, rocks, and fossils. The observations he made were important in the formulation of his theory of descent with modification, and many features in his revolutionary work ‘The Origin of Species’, published in 1859. Some of the material collected on the Beagle voyage is now housed in the Museum of Zoology and the Sedgwick Museum.” (Explorers and Collectors, para. 2, Credit: Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge) This was the beginning of Darwinism, a theory of evolution in species that is caused by natural selection.”

Though Darwin is well talked about and has been thought of being one of the roots to the study of ecology as well, he is not. Many ecologists have looked up to him (as mentioned) but Darwin hasn’t brought up the term ecology, once. Darwin’s most “ecological” (History of Ecology, paragraph 7) writings such as the foreword of “The Fertilization of flowers” (1883) or any of his treatise writings did not mention his output on ecology. Neither did any pioneer ecologist such as Eugene Warming, A. F. W. Schimper, Gaston Bonnier, and Karl Mobius try in, incorporating any of Darwinism in their studies. This wasn’t because of ignorance; it was simply based on the concept they are just two different branches of environmental science. Darwinism focused on competition among the species and survival of the fitness which makes natural selection necessary. Ecology focused on the interrelationships between morphology, physiology, and all other abiotic species.

A man named Arthur Tansley coined the term “ecosystems” in the year 1935. In the 19th century biogeography was becoming a bigger study, Biogeography is the combination of botanical geography (the study that is branched from biogeography and focuses on the concerns of the geographic distribution of plants and how they influence the earth) and zoogeography (branch of the zoology which investigates all geographical features of animals) studies. These target habitats of species and explains why each species is in that specific area. Arthur Tansley was a British ecologist who was phenomenal in his work.

He began the first ecological organization in 1913 (The British Ecological Society) and the first nature conservancy in 1949. He also displayed a lot of his other work into journals and writings about ecological sources and his founded word, ecosystems. “Godwin 1977(Biographies and Obituaries) relates that Tansley, when asked to name the person who would prove to have had the most lasting influence upon the world, unhesitatingly chose Freud.” Meaning, Tansley was an amazing guy who inspired a lot of people and made amazing efforts to spread his knowledge. Godwin happened to be one of Tansley’s colleague and future student.

(Aug. 15, 1871- Nov. 25, 1955)


Around the 20th century, Henry Chandler Cowels was another ecological founder. He founded the study of Dynamic ecology and through that, he studied the ecological succession () at Indiana Dunes. This is where he was able to show proof of ecological succession by seeking the vegetation and soil and relating it to age. Adolphe Dureau de la Malle, is a French naturalist the explained in detail the vegetation development after the forest after clear-felling and had the first actual study of successional processes.

(Feb. 27, 1869 – Sept. 12,1939)


*Down below is a larger list of historical people who have impacted the studies of ecology to how the world sees it today.

Timeline of Ecologists

Notable figure Lifespan Major contribution & citation

  • Antoni van Leeuwenhoek 1632-1723 First to develop concept of food chains
  • Carl Linnaeus 1707–1778 Influential naturalist, inventor of science on the economy of nature[10][11]
  • Alexander Humboldt 1769–1859 First to describe ecological gradient of latitudinal biodiversity increase toward the tropics[4] in 1807
  • Charles Darwin 1809-1882 Founder of evolution by means of natural selection, founder of ecological studies of soils[12]
  • Herbert Spencer 1820–1903 Early founder of social ecology, coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest'[11][13]
  • Karl Möbius 1825-1908 First to develop concept of ecological community, biocenosis, or living community[14][15][16]
  • Ernst Haeckel 1834-1919 Invented the term ecology, popularized research links between ecology and evolution
  • Victor Hensen 1835-1924 Invented term plankton, developed quantitative and statistical measures of productivity in the seas
  • Eugenius Warming 1841-1924 Early founder of Ecological Plant Geography[17]
  • Ellen Swallow Richards 1842–1911 Pioneer and educator who linked urban ecology to human health[18]
  • Stephen Forbes 1844–1930 Early founder of entomology and ecological concepts in 1887[5][19][20]
  • Vito Volterra 1860-1940 Independently pioneered mathematical populations models around the same time as Alfred J. Lotka.[21][22]
  • Vladimir Vernadsky 1869-1939 Founded the biosphere concept
  • Henry C. Cowles 1869-1939 Pioneering studies and conceptual development in studies of ecological succession[23]
  • Jan Christian Smuts 1870-1950 Coined the term holism in a 1926 book Holism and Evolution.[6]
  • Arthur G. Tansley 1871–1955 First to coin the term ecosystem in 1936 and notable researcher[15][24][25]
  • Charles Christopher Adams 1873-1955 Animal ecologist, biogeographer, author of first American book on animal ecology in 1913, founded ecological energetics[26][27]
  • Friedrich Ratzel 1844-1904 German geographer who first coined the term biogeography in 1891.
  • Frederic Clements 1874-1945 Authored the first influential American ecology book in 1905[28]
  • Victor Ernest Shelford 1877-1968 Founded physiological ecology, pioneered food-web and biome concepts, founded The Nature Conservancy[29][30]
  • Alfred J. Lotka 1880-1949 First to pioneer mathematical populations models explaining trophic (predator-prey) interactions using logistic equation[31]
  • Henry Gleason 1882-1975 Early ecology pioneer, quantitative theorist, author, and founder of the individualistic concept of ecology[28][32]
  • Charles S. Elton 1900-1991 ‘Father’ of animal ecology, pioneered food-web & niche concepts and authored influential Animal Ecology text[29][33]
  • G. Evelyn Hutchinson 1903-1991 Limnologist and conceptually advanced the niche concept[34][35][36]
  • Eugene P. Odum 1913-2002 Co-founder of ecosystem ecology and ecological thermodynamic concepts[25][29][37][38]
  • Howard T. Odum 1924–2002 Co-founder of ecosystem ecology and ecological thermodynamic concepts[25][29][37][38][39][40]
  • Robert MacArthur 1930–1972 Co-founder on Theory of Island Biogeography and innovator of ecological statistical methods[41]

Ecology equals connection. When one uses the principles, it helps us understand how to extinguish, hypothesize, and prevent any mistakes that were previously made from happening again. Yes, the historical aspect of ecology was for an upcoming scientist to learn, study and spread the word. Today, not many people have even the slightest clue what ecology is. Ecology is a big branch of environmental science. Ecology pertains; environmental conservation, resource allocation, energy conservation, and eco-friendliness. It is a large expansion of all life forms such as organism ecology, human ecology, populations, the communities and the ecosystems all around the world. Heard of the ecological organization levels? The world is split up into five levels that go from smallest to largest; an individual species, a population, a community, an ecosystem and then the whole biosphere. Down below is a chart that lists the definitions of each level. Environment ecology studies is an important aspect to learn because from B.C time until the present time this world will always be an ecological world.

Term Definition

Biosphere – Region of the Earth that is home to living things.

Community – All the populations of different species that live in the same area and interact with one another.

Ecosystem – All the living things in an area interacting with all of the non-living parts of the environment.

Population – Group of organisms belonging to the same species that live in the same area and interact with one another.

Species – Group of individuals that are genetically related and can breed to produce fertile young.

Environmental science, what is it? It is the way humans, groups of animals, natural substances, bacteria, and chemicals react with one another on a day-to-day basis. Environmental science doesn’t just include one but many topics. Conservation, biology, preservation, sustainability, and ecology. What is Ecology? Ecology is a branch of environmental science that investigates the relationships of an organism’s environment and how they interact with one another. The United States has grown largely compared to what it was.

Environmental science has been around since the beginning of time, and so has ecology, we just couldn’t define it completely. Ecology has taught us a lot of biodiversity meanings and sources that are important for us humans get closer with the rest of the environment. It is very important for every individual to know who we share this planet with. This worlds environment doesn’t only benefit the rest of the planet but what it gives to all the human being on this earth. Many creatures provide us with medicine, equipment for weapons, houses, clothing, water, air and much more. If we didn’t know what each animal consisted of we probably would have never begun to expand as much as we did during the big industrial times.

If it wasn’t for environmental science, would technology and agriculture be of big as it is today? Many people today will have different Opinions on the topic of environmental science Due to ignorance or just not caring. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but, when it comes to having factual evidence that has been studied for centuries you can’t deny that environmental studies aren’t important. Environmental science isn’t just important to scientist or conservationist or anybody else who does this type of study for a living, it’s important for us all to contribute. We should all know something, even the trivial things about our environment because without that our planet would not be where it is today.

Work Cited

  1. Nikitchyuk, Bear.. “A timeline of the History of environmental Science in America.” Troop 770, Newton, CT. https://www.sutori.com/story/a-timeline-of-the-history-of-environmental-science-in-america Accessed October 2018.
  2. University Of Cambridge & Botanic Gardens. “The History Of Environmental Science”. 2018. https://www.museums.cam.ac.uk/working-together/green-museums/the-history-of-environmental-science Accessed October 2018.
  3. Pimm Staurt & Smith Robert. “Ecology”. Made 2018 by Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. https://www.britannica.com/science/ecology Accessed November 2018.
  4. Beveridge, Pam. “Heirlooms Reunited-Henry chandler Cowles, died 1939..”.Tuesday, August 24th, 2010. http://www.heirloomsreunited.com/2010/08/henry-chandler-cowles-died-1939.html Accessed October 2018.
  5. Lewis Studios. “Henry David Thoreau” Copyright “The Walden Woods Project”. https://www.walden.org/thoreau/ Accessed November 2018.
  6. Phillip. “Why it is Important to study Ecology?” by Newspaper WordPress Theme by TagDiv. https://eco-globe.com/why-it-is-important-to-study-ecology/ Accessed October 2018.
  7. Cameron, Laura J. “Sir Author Tansley”. By Oxford Bibliographies. 03 August 2017. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199830060/obo-9780199830060-0094.xml#obo-9780199830060-0094-div1-0003 Accessed October 2018.
  8. See E. P. Odum, Fundamentals of Ecology (3d ed. 1971); R. L. Smith, ed., The Ecology of Man: An Ecosystem Approach (1971); P. A. Colinvaux, Introduction to Ecology (1973); R. M. Darnell, Ecology and Man (1973); T. C. Emmel, An Introduction to Ecology and Population Biology (1973); D. B. Sutton and N. P. Harman, Ecology: Selected Concepts (1973); K. E. F. Watt, Principles of Environmental Science (1973); D. Worster, Nature’s Economy (1977); R. Brewer, The Science of Ecology (1988). The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press. https://www.questia.com/library/science-and-technology/environmental-and-earth-sciences/ecology Accessed November 2018.
  9. FlexBook platform. CK-12 Foundation 2018. “Levels of Ecological Organization”. https://www.ck12.org/biology/ecological-organization/lesson/Levels-of-Ecological-Organization-MS-LS/ Accessed November 2018.
  10. A&E Television Networks. “Aristotle” Published November 9,2009 Last updated August 21,2018. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.history.com/.amp/topics/ancient-history/aristotle Accessed October 2018.
  11. Ruse, Michael. Darwinism Defended: A Guide to The Evolution Controversies. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1982 Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Accessed November 2018.
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