Genomics and bioinformatics have great potential to help address numerous topics in ecology and evolution. Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) can bridge genomics and molecular ecology because they can provide a means of accessing the gene space of almost any organism. We review how ESTs have been used in molecular ecology research in the last several years by providing sequence data for the design of molecular markers, genome-wide studies of gene expression and selection, the identification of candidate genes underlying adaptation, and the basis for studies of gene family and genome evolution. Given the tremendous recent advances in inexpensive sequencing technologies, we predict that molecular ecologists will increasingly be developing and using EST collections in the years to come. With this in mind, we close our review by discussing aspects of EST resource development of particular relevance for molecular ecologists.