Help me learn about ecology.
For a long time I thought ecologists mainly did conservation work: going out into swamps and putting trackers on the tails of rare turtles, and maybe rescuing tiny birds from extinction. Which is admirable and actually really important, but didn't really interest me.
After yet another reread of Dune, I got kind of curious about the science of ecology, and how it's changed since the 60s. And while reading online, I discovered that I was completely wrong about it. Ecology apparently involves a lot of math. And not just the boring statistics that you need for any scientific study, but cool math. There are graphs, and matrices, and systems of differential equations, as well as complicated simulations and interesting algorithms and other such computer-sciencey things.
Now I'm curious about this aspect of ecology. How can I learn about it?
I have a decent understanding of the mathematics it seems like I would need (through linear algebra/differential equations, as well as some theoretical CS/algorithms). If it gets more abstruse than that, please let me know. As for biology: I know that there are cells, and they do something with DNA, and that there were once dinosaurs but then a meteor came and they got short and grew feathers.
So obviously I have to learn about the non-mathematical aspects of ecology too. Studying models without knowing what they represent is silly, and seeing how the math explains what goes on in diverse environments in the real world seems like it would be fascinating.
I've found this
question, but I'm also interested in the more technical side of things.
I'm particularly looking for an interesting book to get me started. The qualities of my dream book, in approximate order of importance:
- engagingly written
- doesn't assume a biological background
- assumes some mathematical background, or at least includes some interesting math
- reasonable form-factor, not a 600 page tome
- not obscenely expensive
- relatively easy to find
The book I'm imagining would tell a story about an ecosystem and maybe about some of its researchers, and then explain in detail the techniques used to study it.
Those are fairly picky requirements. Any and all recommendations are welcome, even if they don't really have any or all of those qualities, as is general advice on how to proceed, and suggestions of websites and other resources that you think might be helpful.