All ecologists receive broadly similar training. They’ve all read lots of papers and books about ecology. They’ve all had some statistical training. They’ve all had some practice at scientific writing and other communication skills. They all know their own study systems well, whether those study systems are lakes or viruses or differential equations or whatever. Obviously there’s variation–some ecologists know more stats than others, for instance. And when you first start working in a new study system, you often don’t yet know much about it. But broadly similar.
But science is a creative endeavor, and being good at it often involves making the most of your own unique abilities. In an ill-defined field like ecology, in which there are so many questions one could ask and so many ways one could go about answering them, there’s a fair bit of scope for individual ecologists to go their own way. And even if someone else is asking similar questions as you, and answering them in similar ways, the path that led them to that point might have been very different than yours.
So in the comments, I hope folks will share their stories of how some unusual aspect of their backgrounds helps them be better ecologists. Brian’s background in business taught him how to run a meeting and how to wear the many hats a PI wears. My undergraduate philosophy courses help me think about the value of simple theoretical models in ecology. Reading economics and finance blogs helps me think about everything from the structure of the scientific communication ecosystem to faculty hiring practices in ecology. In an old comment thread (sorry, can’t find it now), Jarrett Byrnes noted that his theater background helps him give better talks, and gives him creative ideas for teaching others how to give better talks. My biologist buddy Greg Crowther is a musician who uses music to teach science. Share your own example in the comments!