Workshop to Advance Theory in Ecology; October 21, 2019; State College, PA

Project: Research project

Project Details


Science advances through coordinated developments in theory, experimentation, and observation. In the field of ecology, theoretical advances have repeatedly guided experiments and observation, resulting in a mature, predictive discipline. Theory has provided the basis for management of invasive species and pests, guided conservation efforts, improved fisheries management, and contributed to the effective management of human, livestock and wildlife diseases. New challenges posed by unprecedented rates of environmental change, the dominant effects of human activity on climate and the environment, and the massive amounts of data now available highlight the need for new ecological theory that is invigorated by novel approaches, new collaborations, and the integration across relevant sub-disciplines. This workshop engages researchers at diverse career stages, with different theoretical backgrounds and skills, and from different geographical and cultural backgrounds. New theoretical directions and collaborations developed during the workshop will guide future research. New theoretical paths will provide the foundation for training future generations of ecologists and our workforce, ensuring they have the requisite skills to tackle emerging problems. Theory directly and indirectly resulting from the workshop will accelerate the advancement of a discipline that lies at the heart of global problems such as food security, public health, environmental change, and resource limitation.

Workshop activities and discussions will identify key areas in ecology that need reinvigorated theory; establish the approaches needed to advance these theories; identify emergent areas in need of new theory; and develop an agenda for advancing ecological theory. Initial workshop discussions tackle topics including theory that spans levels of ecological organization; theory of uncertainty, ecological variation, and the limits of prediction; and the role of transients and non-stationarity. Discussions in large and small groups will debate and determine the theoretical approaches needed to advance these and other critical contemporary ecological questions. Groups will determine when entirely new theory is needed and when hybridization of existing approaches may address a challenge. Simultaneously, entirely new areas in need of theory will emerge from group discussions. These may include disciplines that share common challenges, forging new or strengthening existing collaborations. Results will appear as publications in leading journals.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date4/15/193/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $99,816.00


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