What’s your favorite ecology textbook? Why?
I don’t have much to contribute here, because I only teach upper-level courses that don’t use textbooks. The last ecology textbook with which I have much personal experience is the 2nd edition of Begon, Harper, and Townsend (now Begon, Townsend, and Harper), which I learned from as an undergrad*. My supervisor Peter Morin used to swear by the famous, and famously massive, Ricklefs (now Ricklefs and Miller). Those two are probably the most advanced undergraduate ecology texts. But there are lots of choices out there.
Out of curiosity, I searched the Alibris textbooks section for the subject “ecology”. The results are, um, interesting; I hadn’t been aware that the definition of “textbook” (or “ecology”!) could be stretched quite so far. But for what it’s worth, the best-selling ecology textbook of any stripe on Alibris is the 2nd edition of Dodds and Whiles’ Freshwater Ecology. Don’t know that one; the aquatic ecology text on my shelf is Lampert and Sommer, because it’s pretty strong on concepts and on links to general ecology. The best-selling general ecology textbook on Alibris is the 7th edition of Smith and Smith’s Elements of Ecology. An earlier edition of Smith and Smith was used in an ecology course I TA’ed at Rutgers. I vaguely recall thinking Smith & Smith was weak on the conceptual side. You can’t cover applications (which Smith & Smith emphasize) at the expense of concepts, or without integrating your concepts and applications (I seem to recall that Smith and Smith included one random paragraph on “chaos theory” tossed into the middle of an otherwise-unrelated chapter…). But that was long ago and I don’t really remember very well.
UPDATE: In terms of more advanced and specialized books, I should’ve mentioned that I love Case’s Illustrated Guide to Theoretical Ecology for my upper-level population ecology and introductory mathematical modeling classes. The very strong emphasis on graphs and pictures illustrating the mathematics is unique, and a really effective way to teach math-phobic ecology students that math is just a tool for helping us think about ecology.
And in terms of graduate-level texts, I’m of course biased because Morin’s Community Ecology is basically Peter’s lecture notes for his wonderful graduate community ecology course, which I took as a grad student. Gary Mittelbach has a competing text coming out this spring. Glancing at the tables of contents suggests that the two books cover much of the same material with broadly similar organization. But that leaves plenty of scope for all sorts of differences. I’ll be curious to see how Gary’s book compares and might even do a comparative review on Oikos blog at some point.
Share your ecology textbook preferences in the comments.
Thanks to Jim Bouldin for the post suggestion.
*If you look up when the second edition of Begon, Harper, and Townsend was published, you will find that I am approximately eleventy bazillion years old.