How did your come to the study of tropical ecology yourself? Why do you find it interesting and exciting?
I began with the study of tropical ecology in 1978 when I decided to organize and course based around a three-week January trip to Belize. It was my first experience in the tropics and I was hooked, so to speak. The proverbial "one thing led to another" occurred and soon I was spending all of my travel time in various tropical locations, getting as much field experience as I could and learning at the same time.
When did you first start teaching tropical ecology to students? Has your method or approach changed over the years?
I began (in 1978) by fundamentally teaching students about why the tropics are so distinct from ecosystems in the temperate zone but now I place much more focus on conservation issues in the tropics. Topics such as the effect of climate change, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and others such topics (all of which are discussed at length in my text) have emerged as central research topics.
Why did you decide to write Tropical Ecology?
Neotropical Companion has had a good track record. I have received many wonderful comments about how useful it is and how often it has been used as a "text" for tropical ecology courses. But it was never meant to be a text nor is it really adequate as a thorough tropical ecology text, as it omits the Old World tropics. So it seemed obvious, both to me as I thought about it and from the comments I received from others who used Neotropical Companion, that I ought to go the "fully Monty" and compose a real textbook devoted to global tropical ecology. So I did.
What did you think makes this book special?
The book, in my estimation, is a very thorough introduction to the topic of the book's title, tropical ecology. It is up to date and it is an immense teaching tool in that, in addition to text, it has abundant illustrations in the form of photographs, tables, graphs, etc. Students will not only read about the tropics, they will see full color images of what I am describing and will see the data from actual studies.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The most satisfying in the end?
Any textbook author has myriads of decisions to make not only as to how the book should be organized and structured but which research papers to feature. I tried my best to review as many sources as I could in making choices as to what studies to feature in the book. I believe I have made good choices and that students will be able to obtain a good overview of what kinds of research is now occurring in the tropics and why it is important.
What do you hope students will take away from reading your textbook?
The most obvious take-home lesson is to understand why the tropics contain unique ecosystems, particularly with regard to the high biodiversity found there and to impart on students the knowledge of why this high diversity deserves attention. In particular, I want students to understand how science and conservation interact, how data obtained by scientific methodology informs conservation decisions, and how essential it has become to focus more on conservation issues in the tropics.
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File created: 3/24/2011