The future of ecology: a collision of expectations and desires?



A subset of members of the Ecological Society of America was surveyed to describe the current status and infer the future state of ecology. Today's modal ecologist is a 55-year-old male professor who uses field observations and experiments to study communities and ecosystems and finds fulfillment in his research. Younger ecologists rely more heavily on laboratory experiments and modeling but obtain satisfaction in field work. If gender-based retention rates equalize, there may soon be as many women as men in ecology – and their interests differ markedly. Women and men report greater fulfillment from teaching and from data analysis/written communication, respectively. These patterns may explain the poor retention of women in the discipline, given the professional emphasis on publications and grants. Such dissonance between personal satisfaction and the missions of employing institutions must be addressed in order to advance the goals of ecology and enhance the diversity of its practitioners.