Ecology is the study of organisms and how they interact with their environment. With such a wide field of study, deciding where to start may be a difficult choice. Choosing in which field to do intensive research is likely a decision that can be put off until general knowledge is acquired, but it's never too early to start thinking of a future career path.
If a student has no background whatsoever in the field, a general biology or ecology course may be the best choice. These basic courses, available at universities or community college, will give the student a background in the methods and techniques used by ecologists to do their work. Students will likely learn the scientific method of testing and get the opportunity to do some lab work. Taking a basic ecology course can help a student decide if his or her interest in the field is more than casual. If a student decides to pursue his or her interest, taking a more advanced ecology course may be the next step.
Ecology is an enormous field with many specialty areas. Students can choose to focus on the ecology of a particular ecosystem, such as marine ecology or fresh water ecology. Any university with a good science program will likely offer an ecology course to suit any interest. In addition, students may choose to take summer jobs doing field research or internships designed to help them learn more about their specialties.
A good ecology course will likely include lab or field work. In addition to basic theoretical knowledge and reading, a student should seek out an ecology course that gives them practical knowledge and further tests their data analysis skills. Before enrolling in a particular course, check with the instructor to see how much lab time or field projects will be required for the class.
For those interested in the history of the field, check college course descriptions to see if a classes are offered in the history of biology or ecology. While learning about the working conditions and momentous discoveries of early researchers may be fascinating, it can also provide valuable information to the serious student. By studying the history of ecology, a student may be better able to memorize and therefore use important theories and techniques pioneered by the early scientists.
Taking an ecology course can be the first step to a rewarding career in scientific research and discovery. Because ecologists study both organisms and their environments, they are vital in determining the health of species, ecosystems and the planet. For scientifically-minded people who want to focus their career on conservation and the environment, an ecology course may give them the tools they need to change the world.