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Ecology in Action



Born out of a keen interest to engage ecology majors from varying backgrounds and motivations, Ecology in Action makes students active participants in the dynamic and ever-changing field of ecology.  Fred Singer’s integrated approach addresses unanswered learning and teaching needs by involving students in the scientific process and supporting instructors in delivering key concepts while demonstrating how real ecologists do their work.  Singer provides a strong conceptual foundation of core areas of ecology—giving significant attention to evolution and behavior—and has students conduct the analysis and data interpretation scientists perform, so they themselves can answer real ecological questions.  The text is underpinned by the ideas of historical thought and developing students’ independent thinking.  Early classic studies and modern cutting-edge studies are linked in a way that students can understand how ideas are generated and how they evolve.  Various theoretical and experimental (quantitative) questions through the text promote analytical and critical thinking.


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  • Places a strong emphasis on scientific logic and the connections among observations, ideas, questions, hypotheses, predictions, results and conclusions

  • Rich visual pedagogy comprised of carefully designed illustrations and thoughtfully selected photos

  • Chapter-opening case studies draw students’ interest and carry themes throughout the chapter

  • The 400 exercises reinforce learning and enable students to check their understanding of the concepts

  • Demonstrates the ecological process and how ecologists work

  • Attention to evolution and behavior runs throughout the book

  • “Thinking Ecologically” questions generate discussion and stimulate active consideration of a topic

  • Dealing with Data” boxes give students the background to design experiments and handle real data to understand how key findings came to be established (an online tutorial using R shows students how to apply the statistical package to answer the “Dealing with Data” questions)

  • “Synthesis and Application” questions challenge students to apply analytic and critical thinking skills to answering real ecological questions

Watch Fred Singer Talk about Ecology in Action



When I accepted a position at Radford University in 1989, I was not willing to abandon my interest and training in research, so I decided that teaching and research could synergize.  I have done this in two ways.  First, I combined my research program in spider behavioural and community ecology with teaching, developing laboratories that used these very cooperative and fascinating animals, and I also provided many directed study opportunities for students willing to put up with a study species they might have initially disdained.  Second, I developed a research program in how to teach, collaborating with several colleagues to develop active learning approaches that required students to shoulder some of the responsibility for getting educated. In 2000, in recognition of my dual research programs, I was awarded the Radford Foundation Award for Creative Scholarship, an annual award to the top scholar at the university.

I have taught about 20 courses, including general ecology, field ecology and climate change ecology. I co-authored a book, Doing Biology, which uses historical case studies to teach students how biology actually gets done. My experiences have taught me that the best learning occurs when students deal with real experiments and real data. Ecology in Action reflects this approach by placing a heavy emphasis on ecological process, beginning with the origin of ideas and how they evolve, and immersing students in analysis and drawing logical conclusions based on real data. Repeated immersion in the entire process helps students acquire a deep understanding of ecology’s core concepts.

Ecology in Action



AUTHOR: Fred D. Singer
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781107115378
PRICE: $74.99 / £49.99


CONTAINS: 719 pp. I 555 color illustrations I 88 tables | 408 exercises

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'In the digital age, creating an effective ecology textbook has become even more challenging. Competition abounds among the numerous available texts, as well as interactive e-books. The authors of this review have been disappointed by several previous works, leading to one of us no longer teaching ecology with a hardbound text. Fred Singer's Ecology in Action may change that and is likely to impress a number of instructors that have had similar previous disappointments. … Singer's writing effectively weaves together some of ecology's greatest hits, both classic and modern to produce interesting, information, and insightful ecology. … high-quality text, one that we are sure is likely to be adopted by numerous universities even in this competitive market. Singer's Ecology in Action will age well, and future ecologists are undoubtedly going to look at it fondly …'

- Howard Whiteman and Nancy Buschhaus, Ecology


“… an ideal ecology text for anyone who would like to help students appreciate the excitement of scientific creativity.”

- Robert Askins, Connecticut College, USA


“Singer provides a detailed overview of the foundations of ecology while he seamlessly incorporates an illuminating insight into how ecology is done.”

- Joris van der Ham, George Mason University, USA


“The case studies bring the chapters to life, which contributes to making this a very interesting read.”

- Judith Lock, University of Southampton, UK


“… I’m excited by this book. It is refreshing and interesting with unique examples and clean artwork. The inclusion of an assortment of end of chapter questions…from application to data analysis will give students practice and insight into both critical thinking and quantitative skills that most books do not.”

- Lynn Mahaffy, University of Delaware, USA


“This book is a breath of fresh air… a text that will engage students at every level of knowledge.”

- Holly Porter-Morgan, City University of New York, USA


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