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Marine biology: an ecological approach

Author(s): Nybakken JW

Abstract

Ecology is difficult to teach because the instructor has to weave through a mire of material ranging from attractive anecdote to formal abstraction in the search for a few robust generalities. To present the material effectively, decisions must be made about the extent of mathematical development and whether the em- phasis should be on populations or ecosystems or plants or animals. The difficulty does not diminish when the focus is on one specific realm and its subunits since the imposed environmental bias usually assumes some prior knowledge of the resident organisms. While this may not be a serious problem for terrestrially oriented ecology courses (because almost everyone knows a little about birds, trees, and insects), the unfamilar nature of all marine communities inhabited by a polyphyletic zoo adds more hurdles to communication with the student. The problem appears epidemic in environ- mentally oriented texts: generalities useful to the stu- dent are often lost or obscured in a blizzard of specific details.

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