Trends in ecology and conservation over eight decades

Sean C. Anderson, Paul R. Elsen, Brent B. Hughes, Rebecca K. Tonietto, Molly C. Bletz, David A. Gill, Meredith A. Holgerson, Sara E. Kuebbing, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Mariah H. Meek, Diogo Veríssimo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The fields of ecology and conservation have evolved rapidly over the past century. Synthesizing larger trends in these disciplines remains a challenge yet is critical to bridging subdisciplines, guiding research, and informing educational frameworks. Here, we provide what we believe is the largest full-text culturomic analysis of ecology and conservation journals, covering 80 years, 52 journals, and half a billion words. Our analysis illuminates the boom-and-bust of ecological hypotheses and theories; the adoption of statistical, genetic, and social-science approaches; and the domination of terms that have emerged in recent decades (eg climate change, invasive species, ecosystem services, meta-analysis, and supplementary material, which largely replaced unpublished data). We track the evolution of ecology from a largely descriptive field focused on natural history and observational studies to a more data-driven, multidisciplinary field focused on applied environmental issues. Overall, our analysis highlights the increasing breadth of the field, illustrating that there is room for more diversity of ecologists and conservationists today than ever before.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-282
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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