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Celebrate ESA’s 99th Year by Learning the History of Ecology

By: , Posted on: August 11, 2014

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The Ecological Society of America is celebrating its 99th anniversary this year and we are delighted to announce that Elsevier will be attending the meeting, displaying cutting-edge books, journals and Elsevier’s innovative Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Stop by booth 203 to browse our content and learn more! To celebrate, this article takes a look at how the scientific study of ecology has developed over the decades.

Ecology Ecology Ecology, where did our fascination all start? The word ecology has only been with us since 1893 when the term ‘ecology’ or ‘autecology’ was first adopted at a botanical congress in Madison, Wisconsin. However records into the investigation of animal, plant and marine species date back to as early as the Middle Ages. Herodotus observed that prey appear to have more offspring than their predators and Plato proposed that every species has a means to survive. Subsequently the Lyceum, Aristotle’s school, founded the sciences of zoology and botany. So our interest in organism’s interactions stems from decades before the term ‘ecology’ was coined.

congrad gessner figure 1Throughout the 1500s and 1600s there was a scientific revolution. Among others, Conrad Gessner,  the Swiss scholar, recorded natural histories of animals and plants, unfortunately only managing to publish the former before dying of the plague in 1565. Aldrovandi and Penny published encyclopedias on their research into insects in the 1600s and scientific societies were formed in the mid-1600s, giving rise to the interest in what we now call, ecology.

carl linnaeus figure 7In the 1700s, the researcher Carl Linnaeus studied the balance between plants and animals, adopting the term ‘economy of nature’ for the notion. In 1749, he published Oeconomia Naturae, making the first endeavor to classify an ecological science.

george louis leclerc figure 8Collaborating together, Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and Linnaeus acquired many exotic animals and plants from explorers, finding it hard to rationalize the similarities and differences between species. Buffon theorized that a limited number of species originated in a small area and as the populations grew, they extended to different habitats of the world, adapting into new species according to their surroundings.alexander von humboldt figure 10

During the early 1800s, Alexander von Humboldt traveled round Latin America, recording correlations between plant associations and environmental factors, recording the dissemination and abundance of species. He was the effective founder of phytogeography, emphasizing distribution of vegetation rather than floristics.

charles darwin figure 14Ernst Haeckel figure 15Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection emphasized the battle between species and their abiotic and biotic environments.

In 1870, Ernst Haeckel, an advocate of Darwin’s, proposed a novel science termed ‘oecology’ describing it as ‘the body of knowledge concerning the economy of nature – the investigation of the total relations of the animal both to its inorganic and to its organic environment.’

In the early 1900s, the same societies that we continue to be members of today were founded. In 1913 the first Journal of Ecology was published coinciding with the first British Ecological Society meeting on 12th April. Over a decade later, in 1932, the British Ecological Society printed the first edition of Journal of Animal Ecology.

This year, the Ecological Society of America is holding its 99th anniversary, founded in 1915 and publishing the journal Ecology since 1920. Elsevier is thrilled to announce that we will be participating in the celebrations for the Ecological Society of America’s anniversary! Please do come join us at booth 203 to browse our Ecological collection of books, journals and information on Elsevier’s innovative reference modules.

Ecology is now recognized as a sophisticated science with a wealth of research, although the term ‘ecology’ only emerged in the late 1800s, our fascination into the study of interactions between organisms has been of interest to many researchers and scholars over the centuries. A fascination that is sure to develop and grow as we continue to make exciting scientific discoveries.

To learn more about the history of ecology or to read more about other areas of ecology and earth systems and environmental science, access Elsevier’s Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Click here to learn more about Elsevier’s Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences or click here to access 32 free articles.

Click here to browse Elsevier’s world leading ecology books and enter discount code STC3014 at checkout to receive an exclusive 30% discount!


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