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2016

A Guide to Online
Research in Ecology
Online Resources for Undergraduate Researchers

Andrew Blinn, Undergraduate, Biology Major


ENGL 202C, Section 201, The Pennsylvania State University
7/12/2016

Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................
Whats in the Guide..................................................................................................................... 2
Intended Audience ...................................................................................................................... 2
What the Guide Assumes Users Know ........................................................................................ 2
How the Guide is Organized ........................................................................................................ 2
Tips for Using the Guide .............................................................................................................. 2

Public Data Sources and Records .............................................................................................


Catalog of U.S. Government Publications ................................................................................... 3
Statistical Abstract of the United States ..................................................................................... 4

Research Resources .................................................................................................................


Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide ........................................................................................ 5
Journal of Applied Ecology .......................................................................................................... 6
Ecological Society of America...................................................................................................... 7
Ecology Global Network .............................................................................................................. 8
Graduate Group in Ecology, UC Davis ......................................................................................... 9
Integral Ecology Research Center ............................................................................................. 10

Introduction
Whats in the Guide
This guide is a short, precise list of useful resources while conducting literary research
pertaining to the ecological sciences. Here you can find two sources of data collected by the
U.S. government that may be used as a data set in a longitudinal study or in the exploration of a
new research topic. Following these resources are online sources for academic literature on
ecological research. Media accessed through these resources have multiple functions in the
research process. Websites provide context to perspective research topics and a good source
for new research topics. Scholarly journals and article indexes provides peer reviewed content
sourced from scientific research.

Intended Audience
As the references cited in this guide can be used by a wide range of individuals with varying
levels of background in ecology, the guide itself is intended for undergraduate researchers
beginning or continuing a research topic and is new to conducting their own scientific research.
Writers of scientific content quickly develop a short list of sources for academic literature and
scientific resources. This guide provides a starting point for that list and suggests sources to be
used in research that are easily usable by someone new to conducting research.

What the Guide Assumes Users Know


To use the resources cited in this guide, the reader must be able to interpret scientific literature
and pass judgement on the credibility of literature found. A research resource such as an index
searches large collections of publications and sources such as newspapers and magazine
articles likely will not be used in the same way as a peer reviewed article in a scientific journal.
It is the responsibility of the reader to source their knowledge only from credible sources.

How the Guide is Organized


Resources outlined are categorized into either a source of public data and records collected by
U.S. government agencies or a source of scientific media available to researchers to gain more
knowledge on a specific subject.

Tips for Using the Guide


When using this guide, it is likely that information about a cited resource is missing in the
description. Only descriptions of the resources and their possible uses are included in the guide.
Before making use of the resources, exploring the webpages and seeking more information and
instruction is advised. Additionally, this guide can be added to with personal tips on using
certain resources or with more resources found when conducing your own research.
Maintaining a personal list of literary resources can aid in future research.

Public Data Sources and Records


Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
Government Resource
Go to: catalog.gpo.gov/F?RN=870182131
Abstract
Through various ways of using the search engine provided on the webpage, one can find record
of any publication produced by the U.S. government. In various cases, these records of
publication provide a pdf copy or locations of physical copies held in a local Federal Depository
Library. Navigation to publications of interest is a simple process with familiarity of the search
engine. For example, ecologists interested in investigating the ability of the Environmental
Protection Agency to write policy by consultation of the Endangered Species Act, they can
search by subject and simply search endangered species to find such publications. One such
publication reviews selective enforcement by the EPA of protocols and policy to be followed by
power plants written in the ESA.1 This document is much too long and has too much recorded
dialogue between government officials to be used by reading the entire document. Being a
searchable pdf, using the search function to find pertinent information quickly is a good
strategy when using these sources as references in a research project. If finding relevant
documents is difficult for the topic at hand, using the advanced search can limit the number of
documents retrieved.
1

United States.Congress.House.Committee on Natural Resources. (2016). Federal agencies


selective enforcement of ESA consultation : oversight hearing before the Committee on Natural
Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourteenth Congress, first session,
Wednesday, July 29, 2015. [Online] http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo67321

Statistical Abstract of the United States


Government Resource
Go to: www.census.gov/library/publications/time-series/statistical_abstracts
Abstract
As a series of publication by the U.S. Census Bureau, the statistical abstracts available online
record information collected by the bureau in downloadable spreadsheets. These spreadsheets
are organized by the year in which they were compiled and then by category of interest.
Consistency in the organization of this information each year allows for compiling annual data
on a subject as a larger single dataset available to the public. These spreadsheets date back to
1878 and as recent as 2012. The scope of each years collection of census data varies as many
topics of interest in recent years have not been recorded as far back as the collection itself
does. For example, a topic of great interest in the field of ecology is the effects of historic land
use have on the lands ecosystem in current time. This archive of census spreadsheets compiles
information on land use and is easily found as far back as the 1995. Prior to that years census,
sections of the abstracts are not titled and finding information of interest becomes difficult. A
quick way to determine how far back a set of data dates, and thus determine usability for an
intended purpose, is to start at the most recent year and continue to look back one year at a
time for the same category of information until it is no longer included in the abstract.

Research Resources
Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide
Literature Index
Go to: https://www.ebscohost.com/academic/wildlife-ecology-studies-worldwide for free trial
Go to: web.b.ebscohost.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/ehost/search/advanced with PSU ID.
Abstract
This simple, easy-to-use index searches a comprehensive collection of scholarly articles
pertaining to wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The database is updated weekly
and full access is readily available with university student credentials. If the full access is
unavailable, a free trial is offered at the homepage of the database. Although the content
searchable by this index does not include articles with an ecological focus, the studying of
ecology demands knowledge of the wildlife involved in the research. Academic peer reviewed
journals are likely the most useful type of source available through the index while conducting
secondary research. The search engine is able to exclude other types of sources as well as limit
the search by date, publisher, and language. When accessing with Penn State credentials,
nearly all results are available in their entirety free online.

Journal of Applied Ecology


Professional Journal
Go to: www.journalofappliedecology.org/view/0/index
Abstract
Peer reviewed articles in the Journal of Applied Ecology, published by the British Ecological
Society, focus on the application of ecological methods in the effort of management of
biological resources. Since 1998, the Journal of Applied Ecology has developed into a source of
high impact articles of ecological science with multiple free methods of accessing content
online. The simplest way to navigate to free articles is through Wiley Online Library. A link to
this is found on the journal home page. This journal is useful for both exploring a new research
topic and conducting secondary research on a specific topic. Compared to other scholarly
journals of ecology, Journal of Applied Ecology exemplifies in outlining key methods used in
modern ecology and publishing articles demonstrating key ecological concepts. To learn about
similar content in less formal forms of media, the journal offers reviews to articles and
podcasts.

Ecological Society of America


Professional Association
Go to: www.esa.org/esa/
Abstract
The Ecological Society of America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of
ecological sciences and increasing public awareness of ecological values since its establishment
in 1915. Specifically, their webpage is a directory of information with portals to navigate users
to all resources available to ESA members and nonmembers. Information on becoming a
member and the benefits of doing, career resources, current events pertaining to ecology
research, and resources to aid in research can all be found from their webpage. As a resource
for conducting background research on an ecological concept, the scope of the ESA is limited to
their own publications, including five peer-reviewed scholarly journals. These journals are an
excellent start to learning about current and historical research topics in ecology. A good
strategy for searching for relevant articles published by the ESA is to use their search bar that
searches all five journals at once for a topic of interest.

Ecology Global Network


Professional Association
Go to: www.ecology.com
Abstract
The Ecology Global Network focuses on educating, building a sense of community, creating
sustainability, and stimulating action. Their website communicates vast amounts of news,
reports, informative articles, and even learning aids to a wide audience. This lack of focus in
their audience prevents any true depth in the content found on their website and reading level
is of the introductory level. As a resource for learning about ecological topics and concerns, the
network is a great starting point. This resource is included in this guide for its outstanding
ability to provide inspiration for new topics of research and multiple perspectives on specific
topics. As far as a source of information to be used for research on a topic, the website provides
little useable content. It is individuals who contribute to the content and cited sources of the
articles that are useful at the undergraduate level. A more refined source of information can be
found by clicking on the tab titled Ecology Campus Network which has the same goals as the
Ecology Global Network but appeals to a higher educated audience. To utilize either networks
of information efficiently, start by seeking out an article or page that is focused on a topic of
interest for research. If this topic is already familiar to the reader, the information given by the
webpage will not expand ones knowledge on the subject by much. Find sources of information
or researchers mentioned on the page and research those in particular. This will often lead to
online resources on those actually conducting research on the topic rather than an introduction
or summary of the topic.

Graduate Group in Ecology, UC Davis


University Department Webpage
Go to: ecology.ucdavis.edu/
Abstract
The ecology program at UC Davis is arguable one the finest in the nation. Graduate programs at
respected universities give insight to modern research topics and creative techniques used to
pursue these topics. Although the webpage is designed to appeal to perspective graduate
students, the resources provided can be utilized by any upper classman undergraduate
ecologist. The highlight of the page is the directory of UC Davis faculty involved in the ecological
sciences. Each entry contains contact information, a website outlining the research, and the
area of emphasis in which that faculty member has. Choosing to research a individual
performing research on a topic of interest is a more deliberate way of understanding the
important issues in ecology and the techniques used to study them compared to a literature
research. As an undergraduate, there may be an interest in the career paths of these faculty
members listed in the directory. Websites provided by the directory often showcase past
research performed by the faculty member. These records of publications not only reveal the
evolution of a researchers career over time, but deliver a concise collection of respected
literature on a research topic of interest. The UC Davis webpage is only one example of many
accredited universities with a strong ecology program at the graduate level. The reader is
encouraged to explore the programs of many universities.

Integral Ecology Research Center


Nonprofit Organization
Go to: www.iercecology.org
Abstract
The Integral Ecology Research Center or IERC was founded in 2004 with the mission of
performing ecological research to advance the knowledge base of ecological concerns. Based
out of California, the research performed is primarily related to California native animal and
forest conservation. Their webpage is organized by interests of the reader and includes
publications, a staff directory, and opportunities for involvement. Publications are further
organized by topic or research. The publications section also includes media and press releases
that can inform the reader of recent actions of the research center. Although the resources
provided by the IERC webpage are minimal, they are great examples of current publications and
demonstrate the depth at which a particular part of the country can be researched in just
twelve years. A unique resource to researchers is the education and training provided by the
IERC. In many cases, proper research of a topic requires training in the techniques used in the
professional researching community. The IERC is open to train and educate eager and qualified
individuals wishing to get involved. It would greatly benefit the reader to assess their need for
training or specialized education prior to beginning a research project of their own.

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