This fall I will be teaching a graduate-level community ecology class for the first time. Most people would say that community ecology is one of the five or so main subdisciplines of ecology along with physiological ecology, population ecology, ecosystem ecology and maybe behavioral ecology.
In the 1970s community ecology was an “in” field. Then in the 1980s and 1990s my perspective is that community ecology was passe. I started graduate school in 1997 and I well remember how all my graduate student peers would say things like “I study species interactions” rather than use the phrase “community ecology”. Now community ecology feels very much like a reinvigorated, “cool” field again, but in part because the lines have blurred with topics like macroecology and global change ecology.
So it has been an interesting exercise for me to think through what exactly should be covered in a community ecology class. Its a bit of a definitional exercise in defining what I think community ecology is today. There is definitely more than enough material to fill a semester these days, so choices must be made. There are two great textbooks on community ecology by Mittelbach and Morin (both reviewed by Jeremy). So I can look at the tables of contents there, but there are some noticeable differences from the choices I will make.
So I thought it would be fun to take a reader survey to see what topics people think belong in an early graduate (e.g. first year graduate student) community ecology class.There are 30+ topics. Each topic could easily take 1 week to cover (in fact could easily be an entire semester seminar), and here at Maine we typically have a 15 week semester, so assuming we’ll squeeze a few topics together, you can pick up to 20 topics (it would be no fun if you could check everything!). I’m sure there are other ways to organize/slice&dice these topics, but this is a reasonable approximation. What would you prioritize in a community ecology class? What are your top 20 priorities for an introductory graduate level community ecology class? Take our poll (NB: I have NOT randomized the order presented to keep related topics close to each other, but please make sure you read to the end and don’t just bias towards the first things you see):