Why Ecology Lags Behind Biology

Illustration: A. Canamucio The triumph of the mapping of the human genome is eloquent testimony to how fast the life sciences have come from the 1960s when the Nuffield Foundation found it necessary to launch a program of biological scholarships to leaven the "soft" biological sciences with expertise from the "hard" sciences of physics and chemistry. The program supported academically qualified physicists and chemists seeking careers in the life sciences, or life scientists wishing to obtain a d

Raymond O'connor
Oct 15, 2000

Illustration: A. Canamucio


The triumph of the mapping of the human genome is eloquent testimony to how fast the life sciences have come from the 1960s when the Nuffield Foundation found it necessary to launch a program of biological scholarships to leaven the "soft" biological sciences with expertise from the "hard" sciences of physics and chemistry. The program supported academically qualified physicists and chemists seeking careers in the life sciences, or life scientists wishing to obtain a degree in physics or chemistry to aid their career in the biological sciences.

Yet the ecological and environmental sciences have lagged behind the surging advances of most of the life sciences. In no way can one seriously anticipate soon an ecological breakthrough of the magnitude of the human genome project. If the takeover of biological department after biological department by well-funded molecular biologists in the 1970s dismissed ecology as natural history, neither has...