Ecologists: training the next generation

According to new research, ecology students could soon be taught to be ecological entrepreneurs and influencers as part of their degrees.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, The Open University and the British Ecological Society carried out the first horizon scan of teaching and learning in ecology.  They surveyed the ecological community to compile and rank challenges that are likely to arise in teaching and learning in ecology. Challenges included the poor societal perceptions of ecology, uses of technology, fieldwork and career opportunities.  Last year ecology teachers from across the UK met to identify solutions to these upcoming challenges.

The research outlined ten potential solutions, which included the development of living laboratories on campus, teaching students to be ecological entrepreneurs and influencers, and better embedding skills-based learning and coding in the curriculum. They also proposed the use of new technology to enhance fieldwork studies including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and real-time spoken language translation.

Professor Zenobia Lewis, who jointly led the research, said: “While horizon scans are by definition future-focused, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant some of the proposed solutions, especially those associated with online learning and virtual field trips, are gaining momentum much more quickly than anticipated.

“We currently face significant global environmental challenges, with the role of ecologists arguably more important than ever. Innovation in teaching should remain at the forefront of our efforts in order to train vital future generations of ecologists.”

Teaching and learning in ecology: a horizon scan of emerging challenges and solutions

image credit: Raj Whitlock