TREE has recently published an article (preprint here) by IITE members and other theoretical ecologists from five continents that calls for a “global network of postgraduate theoretical [ecology] training programs”. Please see the article for the rationale. In short: theoretical ecology is experiencing an Allee effect and we should overcome it.
How can we make this happen? After some discussion amongst us, a reasonable course of action appears to be a two-pronged strategy: summer schools and a network of MSc programs (optionally with courses open to PhD students). There will be synergies, because summer schools can help us test/demonstrate teaching methods and demand, and help explore funding routes, both of which helps building the MSc network. On the other hand, a network of MSc programs, as it emerges, will multiply teaching capacity for the summer schools and lend them further credibility.
We envisage the summer schools to be about 2 weeks long. They can be developed rather quickly and can make use of existing infrastructure for training programs offered by various organisations around the world. If you are interested in helping with development and/or delivery of summer schools, please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
A network of MSc programs in theoretical ecology should build on experiences from related past and existing postgraduate programs around the world. There is much to be gained from joining forces, for example:
- To advertise and establish the degree and the profession of the Theoretical Ecologists as a brand recognized by both prospective students and employers.
- To improve the suitability of programs for non-academic career pathways, e.g. in the growing market of impact investment.
- To jointly make a case to funders to subsidize programs that move from the margins of theoretical ecology (theoretical biology, complex systems, modelling, data science) towards its core.
We are planning to hold a workshop in the summer of next year to bring interested people together. Topics of the workshop could be: curriculum development, marketing, and financial support - all of which are closely related.
If you are interested in participating in this workshop or in pre/post workshop discussion, please drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Dr. Axel G. Rossberg
International Initiative for Theoretical Ecology (https://iite.info)
Queen Mary University of London (https://www.qmul.ac.uk/sbcs/staff/axelrossberg.html)