Connections 20017. Ecology and Public Policy
“Anthropogenic ecology,” the effect of humanity on ecosystems, is an emerging area of influence in ecology and is related to the discipline of conservation ecology, which in turn deals with such issues as ecosystem management for biodiversity, reintroduction of native species, elimination of invasive species and protection of endangered species and ecosystems. While there are many good examples of the importance of conservation ecology, none is better than the methods by which the policies that govern the U.S. national park system are formulated.
In this Connection, BIO 215 deals with the basics of ecology, including anthropogenic examples, while POLS 321 specifically examines the budget of the National Park Service. Students in this course role play in making decisions for allocation of National Park Service funds. The park service, probably the single largest manager of public lands, botanical and animal species, and cultural artifacts in the world, owns some 357 parks and other designated areas, encompassing 80 million acres in the United States.
These connected courses enable students to learn more about the issues that must be resolved in making sound budgetary decisions. For ecology students, a pragmatic examination of the reality of budgeting in the area of conservation science will add immeasurably to the value of their introduction to the discipline. For political science students, an introduction to how an ecologist views the various issues in park administration and policy making will provide insights about how science informs decision and priority making.