Presidential address: Some reflections on the training of an ecologist
Ecology as a branch of natural science has expanded so rapidly and been consciously applied, in this country at least, so recently that many of us have been compelled to call ourselves ecologists, or at least to submit to being labelled as such, before we are quite sure what it is all about, or whether we have in fact the necessary qualifications and training. If there are such deficiencies, it is quite understandable, and no great harm will have been done if we recognise the position and take stock of it from time to time. It is some thought along these lines that has led me to select as a topic for a presidential address to the 4th Annual Conference some reflections on the training of an ecologist.
I am going to start by being didactic and categorical, and to state that in my opinion competence in ecology and full understanding of the ecological approach is something that is caught rather than taught. We have undergone a long period in which specialist training for biologists and soil scientists has been considered necessary, and there has been little time to include in the courses of study the general background that was once associated with the old-fashioned naturalist. My contention, in brief, is that the attitude of the naturalist must in some way be restored. Luckily it has not been entirely lost, but I think that most of us would agree that it tends at times to be obscured.