More specifically, how often are they mentioned in the NY Times? Turns out the Times has an online tool to tell you! It gives you a time series of the % of all NY Times articles containing a specified word or phrase. Here’s the time series for “ecologist” (which seems not to be case sensitive):
The general trend is upward, though with ups and downs that may or may not be interpretable.
Ecologists are mentioned less often than members of many other scientific fields. We’re about on par with or a bit above “geneticist”, “geologist”, “demographer”, “paleontologist”, and “linguist”, but dwarfed by “biologist”, “sociologist”, “anthropologist”, “psychologist”, “historian”, and especially “economist” (interactive graph).
You can also look at the names of fields, which reveals rather different patterns. For instance, mentions of “ecology” in the NY Times skyrocketed starting in the mid-1960s and peaked in 1972, at the height of the US environmental movement. Then they declined precipitously, rebounded a bit in the runup to the 20th Earth Day in 1990, and have held steady or drifted downward slowly ever since. But mentions of ecology are dwarfed by, and show different temporal trends than, other related words like “environmental” (interactive graph). So I suggest not reading too much into the trends for any single word.