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The Search for an Ecology Paper Topic

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The Search for an Ecology Paper Topic
In the search for a paper topic that relates to Ecology, many possibilities emerged, including, of course, the popular Global Warming and Tropical Rainforest topics, but I wanted something different. Soon it was obvious there is confusion as to what Ecology really is. As our text, “Biology: A Guide to the Natural World,” points out, we should assume that many ecologists are environmentalists, but these are two very different professions.
Enter “ecology” in the Google search engine, 739,000 topics related to ecology will appear! Clicking on many of these links will direct you to a Website featuring some “environmental” or “conservation” topic, not an “Ecology” topic. Many people assume that ecology and environmental conservation are one in the same and many of the Websites confirm this assumption. combines both ecological and environmental news and articles which only adds to the confusion; one would think a Website with this title would be an “official” Website featuring only factual information; not so, just as many other “official” sounding titles are not “official” websites! In fact, there are many college educated people, my son for example, with this same mind set. The confusion can be blamed on the media hype over the environmental movement.
Not many years ago “go green” brought images of tractors, farm equipment, lawn mowers and the words “John Deere,” but today “go green” has a whole new meaning. It seems the word “green,” for many people, means ecology? The world is overloaded with information about global warming and the waste and destruction of the earth’s precious resources, which isn’t all bad. But there is a need to explain what ecology is and what environmental conservation is.
“Ecology is the study of how living things interact—with each other and with their physical environment” (Krogh). In their search for answers, ecologists may use many other scientific branches. These may include climatology (the study of climates) when addressing the issue of global warming. An ecologist may use hydrology and oceanography (the study of water and oceans) when studying questions regarding the earth’s water or physics (the study of physical forces and qualities) or chemistry (the study of transformation of matter), geology (the study of rocks and minerals), and soil analysis (used when studying the earth’s surface). To study the relationships between organisms, ecology also involves such disparate sciences as animal behavior, taxonomy (the grouping of organisms), physiology, and mathematics. (Encarta).
Ecology isn’t the conservation of the Earth’s natural resources or any environmental issues; environmentalists, activists, and conservation biologists are involved in these issues. Ecology is not about recycling or saving the bald eagle. It is true, most movements begin from ecological information, but ecology is not about activism. A person can read an ecological study such as the Steller Sea Lion Study or any other ecological study and interpret it with an environmental frame of mind. For example, an ecological study on the pollution of waterways causing the death of fish can be used as an argument in favor of regulations and policies to prevent such pollution or cause the clean-up of waterways, but the study itself should not assume a moral position. Ecology attempts to understand why things change in response to a stimulus so predictions can be made under similar circumstances. It doesn’t say we shouldn’t pollute because fish are dying, the study tells us fish are dying because we are polluting. The result of the study is not a course of action, but an attempt at understanding.
Why study ecology? The study of ecology assists in the understanding of how natural systems work, how human activities alter the ecological systems. The study of ecology helps us understand the world around us and how to live in harmony.
After completing my research on what Ecology is and what Ecology isn’t, I typed in “Ecological Studies” in the Google Search Engine, a list of 1,140,000 hits appeared. A title on the third page, “Ecological Studies of the Wolves and Moose,” caught my attention. Clicking on this link brought up the Website page, “The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale.”
This is the longest predator-prey system study in the world. This study is focused on the populations of wolves and moose and their interaction on this small island. Isle Royale is an island located in the northwest portion of Lake Superior. “The island is small, isolated, there is almost no human interaction, it (the island) has national park status, and there is little migration of animals into and out of the island, there are no roads, and no motorized vehicles are allowed, making the island a virtual wilderness” (Isle). For these reasons, Isle Royale is the perfect ecosystem for ecologist to study because of its simplicity.
The Isle of Royale National Park is home to a population of wolves and moose. The wolves are the sole predator of the moose, and moose represent 90% of the wolves’ diet. This study has informed researchers about the limits of predicting and understanding natural systems, the nature of predation, and many particulars about why and how wolves and moose are the way they are (Isle).
Some Researchers believe in 1900 the moose swam from Canada which is fifteen miles from Isle Royale. The wolves arrived in 1950 by walking across an ice bridge from Canada. In 1958 Durward Allen began studying the wolves and moose of Isle Royale. The population of both the moose species and the wolf species has changed over the years. These changes are due to disease and climate changes. In 2007, the moose population totaled 650 and there were 24 wolves (divided into four packs) occupying the island (Duluth).
Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich, population biologist at Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, lead the study today. Aerial and ground observations are performed in the summer and winter, they collect moose and wolf bones to analyze, and study vegetation, climate, air and water contaminants, and other environmental factors. Peterson said, “Although wolves and moose are in the spotlight, this study has implications for understanding the broader components of an ecosystem (Science).
The answer to why we do it? We do it because “Valuable though it is, knowledge is not the ultimate reason why we devote ourselves to observing the wolves and moose of Isle Royale. We do it because they are beautiful” (Isle).
This study has not only impacted the scientific world, it has had an impact on every researcher and volunteer that has participated in any aspect of the study. They have experienced an inter stirring of emotions and feelings that they have never felt before. The words of Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist, say it best, “It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Works Cited

“Ecologist.” 2007. 10 Nov 2008.
“Ecology.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 2008. 27 Nov 2008.
Krogh, David. Biology: A Guide to the Natural World. 4th ed. CA: Pearson Benjamin/Cummings, 2008.
Science Centric. “Celebrating 50 years of wolf-moose research.” 17 Oct 2007. 30 Nov 2008
University of Minnesota Duluth. “A Living Classroom: Isle Royale and the Wolf-Moose Study.” 2003. 27 Nov 2008.
Vucetich, John A. The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale. 2008. 20 Nov 2008.…...

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