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Nov102011

Ecology Courses | A Guide to Finding Ecology Classes

Ecology is the study of the relationships between living creatures and their natural environment. Many students take ecology courses in college.

However, people not currently enrolled in college may find ecology courses beneficial as well. The study of ecology can help us better understand and enjoy the world around us. Ecology courses can also help certain professionals advance inn their careers.

This is a resource for finding ecology courses for the person who wants to learn more about general ecology or specific ecological topics.

Who can benefit from Ecology Courses?

1) Those interested in a career in ecology can take an ecology course to see if the field is right for them before entering a full undergraduate or graduate program of study. Some ecology programs will require prior coursework in ecology before admitting applicants.

2) Professionals whose work intersects with nature can improve their career prospects with an ecology course. Whether you’re an urban planner, a park ranger, or a marine biologist, an ecology course can make you better informed to excel in your field.

3) Anyone interested in nature can increase their understanding and enjoyment of the world around them with an ecology course. At the very least it will make hikes even more interesting by giving you a deeper understanding of what you see.

Where can the general public (i.e. those not already enrolled in a college) take Ecology Courses?

1) Open Courseware - Many of the leading universities have launched open coursware programs which make the lectures and materials from past courses publicly available. This is our favorite option because it's free and readily available to anyone with access to the internet. For example see: Yale's introductory ecology course and MIT's introductory ecology course as taught in 2009.

2) A community college – This is a good option for the general public since many community colleges offer ecology classes and will allow you to take an individual course for a per-credit fee.

3) University extension – If you’re lucky enough to live near a university with an extension or continuing education program, this could be an option as well. However, these programs tend to have a more applied focus, so their offering of ecology courses may be somewhat limited. Some extension programs allow students to take regular college courses space permitting without having to apply. For example see: UC Davis’ Open Campus program

4) Local universities - Universities offer ecology classes from world's foremost ecologists but only certain schools only allow the general public to take individual college courses as non-degree seeking students. For example, see: University of Idaho’s non-degree course options.

5) Online courses -  Colleges and cooperative extensions are increasingly offering online classes to allow a greater range of people to take ecology courses. For example, see UC Davis’ online courses in rangeland ecology.

6) Local non-profits – Many local organizations involved in natural history, land management, and conservation offer nature walks, workshops and other informal educational programs in ecology and ecological issues. Some organizations offer more formal ecological training for their own volunteer docents.

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