In keeping with our overall objective of communicating about the state of ecological science without publishing opinion papers that clutter up the journals, we have decided to set up this blog. The focus of our posts will be to address specific issues in ecology that affect ecologists, scientists in general, the public, politicians, and the planet. We do not feel infallible and we welcome dissenting opinions and clarifications to our comments.

Charles Krebs is a vertebrate ecologist who has studied small mammals for 50 years and has written several textbooks on ecology, the ecological world view, and rodent population dynamics. He is retired from teaching but not from science, and spends part of the year in Vancouver at the Biodiversity Institute of the University of British Columbia, part of the year in Canberra at the University of Canberra Institute for Applied Ecology, and part of the year doing field research in the Yukon.

Judy Myers is an insect ecologist who has worked extensively on biological control of insect pests and weeds, and the population dynamics of the western tent catepillar. She has investigated with her colleagues virus diseases of forest insect pests and their impacts on population dynamics. She is retired from teaching but continues to work actively in the Biodiversity Centre at the University of British Columbia.

10 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Kevan

    Looking forward to reading more. In Canada, we desperately need to push back against the politics of our current government.

  2. Marlene Zuk

    This is fantastic, thanks so much. I am co-teaching a new graduate course called “Foundations in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior” and one of the final assignments is to construct a poster on what we call a “big” question in one of the disciplines. The students (all the first-years are required to take the course) all then collaborate on a single poster with what they consider to be the 15 (last year) or 10 (this year) big questions overall. It was a really great exercise, in my opinion at least. This set of rants is exactly relevant to our goals, and I loved the entry on fundamental questions.

  3. Sarah Boon (@SnowHydro)

    We’d like to invite your blog to join our Canadian science blog aggregator: Science Borealis ( Please go to the site and follow the instructions under ‘Join Us’. I think you’d fit well into both the ‘Biology & Life Sciences’ and the ‘Science Policy’ categories. Look forward to seeing your submission!

  4. Daniel Taylor

    Hi Dr Krebs,
    Just reading over ch.2 of ecological methods 3rd ed. p.39 incorrectly labels graphs as small populations.

  5. W.J. Illerbrun

    If Conservation Biology is about maintaining biological diversity then, whatever their contributions to communities and ecosystems, birds definitely belong in the picture. They are, if you will, “front line troops.” They are visible (I can see at least a half dozen different species at my feeder as I type), and they are, for whatever human reasons, attractive in ways that, say, nematodes aren’t. We connect with them on a number of different planes (though, one fervently wishes, not on a plane in which we are flying). Speaking generally, we care about them, and in so caring are inevitably led to care about the well-being of the wonderful (one-derful) planet that we share with them

    “Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul…,” wrote Emily Dickinson. “God sees the little sparrow fall,” Maria Straub tells us in her famous hymn. God! If He or She cares about one sparrow, then imagine the consequences if an entire flock disappeared from the picture, let alone the entire class of aves. Woe unto us, for sure.

    Moving away, quickly, from the world of metaphor, a couple of practical reasons for birds: 1) They carry seeds from place-to-place, either stuck to their “persons” or via their droppings, seeds which may then grow into grasses and flowers and trees (see the history of the remotest archipelago on earth, Hawaii, for the workings of this phenomenon), which provide habitat for “the endless forms most beautiful” to which Darwin referred in the final sentence of On the Origin of Species, the Bible of modern biology. And 2), their droppings, with or without viable seeds therein, nourish the earth. Think of Canada Geese and playing fields for an idea of the volumes involved here.

    Think of this, too. To quote Dr. M.S. Swaminathan (so-called “Indian Father” of the “Green Revolution”): “We are here as the guests of green plants.” Green plants that birds have helped spread around, photosynthesizing plants on which all oxygen breathing, living things–almost all forms of Life–depend. Even nematodes.

    So…birds matter. They are of consequence. To misquote but not misinterpret the poet Coleridge: “Remember the albatross.”


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