Ecology and environmental science are closely related disciplines, and familiarity with the principles of one is essential to fully understanding the other. The main difference between the two is that the latter is a more overarching field that incorporates many elements of Earth and life sciences to understand various natural processes. Ecology, on the other hand, is usually more focused on how organisms interact with each other and with their immediate surroundings. Both sciences provide very important information about nature and what people can do to better protect the planet and conserve resources.
An important difference between ecology and environmental science is the goal of research in each discipline. Unlike environmental scientists, ecologists tend to focus their research on very specific populations of living things, such as a certain type of grass or a group of fishes. Ecologists seek to understand how populations interact, reproduce, and thrive within an ecosystem. They concentrate mainly on immediate factors such as food preferences, predation, and sexual selection within a group. Through careful observation and historical research, they explain the developmental and evolutionary adaptations that influence a species.
Environmental scientists conduct laboratory and field studies to learn about a range of factors that influence an area. Like ecologists, they study living things and their behaviors in detail. In addition, they consider the impacts of climate, geological processes, temperature changes, and water cycles when investigating ecosystems. For example, an environmental scientist might research the impacts of an especially dry season on the growth of different species of plants in an area. He or she may then try to identify any negative resulting consequences on herbivorous animals in the region.
A strong educational background in the scientific method is necessary in both ecology and environmental science. Professionals in both fields conduct rigorous, ethical, highly controlled studies to ensure accurate results. They record their findings in detailed reports and create statistical analyses when applicable, so that their results can be reviewed and built upon by other scientists.
Understanding these disciplines is essential in formulating laws and policies regarding conservation. When governments and industries set new standards, they usually consult professionals with backgrounds in these fields to provide expert advice. Environmental scientists might be contracted to analyze pollution levels and other risk factors near an industrial plant. Ecologists are needed to determine the welfare of certain populations and suggest ways to better protect endangered species. By combining the information gathered by scientists in both disciplines, authorities can create effective policies and educational resources for people to follow.