The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.


Now that my seminar is out of the way (and I soundly kicked its butt, thankyouverymuch *bow*), a much, MUCH larger challenge is looming in the not-so-distant horizon:

The Comprehensive Exam.


For those of you unfamiliar with the term, picture your favourite episode of Law and Order or Criminal Intent or any other such cop-type-program.  You know the scene where the bad guy is hunched and small and miserable-looking as he sits on an uncomfortable chair in a cramped, dark, concrete room that he’d clearly prefer not to be in at that moment, and there’s a couple of cops grilling him with a steady stream of increasingly agitating questions until the bad guy finally breaks down, either with a display of tears or confessions or gibberish or outright lunacy? 

Yeah, it’s like that.  Only replace “bad guy” with “PhD student” and “cops” with “Too-Smart-Professors”.  Everything else is pretty much bang-on, only there is not likely to be a “good cop”.  This anxiety-inducing exercise is a requirement for most of us PhD wannabes.  It is not something we look forward to.  The thought of “Comps” makes us want to throw up a little.


So I have been busy thinking about my Comps *barf* and about the things TSPs may ask.  I’ve been chewing on questions like, “what is my own work really about, and where does it fit in the greater scheme of science?”  Which has led me to further ponder: “what IS the greater scheme of science, and ecology in particular?  How did the field of ecology come to be, and how has it evolved over time, and why?”   I know that there have been a number of very influential thinkers who have produced very influential ideas and publications.  I have a shortlist of people who I believe to be particularly important, but I’m curious to hear what others think (and to see how their own areas of expertise affect their choices).

I’m throwing these two questions at you, dear readers:

Who do YOU think were (or are) the most influential figures in ecology?

What papers do YOU think have most strongly affected the development and evolution of the field?

Please discuss.

6 responses to “Influence

  1. dang December 1, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    ” I’m throwing these two questions at you, dear readers:
    Who do YOU think were (or are) the most influential figures in ecology?
    What papers do YOU think have most strongly affected the development and evolution of the field? ”

    I haven’t a clue to whom. But as a person which became interested in such stuff due to photography, the importance quickly became clear. When invasive species take hold, food production can be drastically affected. Example would be the African snail infestation which closed crop fields for years during eradication. Or recent decline in bees, which influenced numerous debates over cause. Or fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics making their way into water sources causing mutations in animal life and disease.

    As an “Average Joe”, we depend on entomologists, ecologists and researchers to track insect, & chemical movement, and realize how much we depend on you to survive in the long term.

    How the fields developed, or who contributed, is of little importance to me. But what is important are the continuing efforts of those in the future. I may not know the names, are what they always did… But I do know it’s a time-consuming, life-long, and most often thankless task. It takes special people, but even nameless I appreciate every one. YOU are the future. Just know we’re out here routing for you. Knock ’em dead, and a big thanks for sharing a bit of your knowledge with us here on your site.

    • TGIQ December 3, 2010 at 8:47 PM

      It’s always nice to hear that an “Average Joe” appreciates the value of ecological/entomological research; so many people either pooh-pooh it or are completely unaware that such research even exists.

  2. Heath Blackmon December 3, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    I’m a first year grad student in biology and If I had to pick somebody I would say Mayr. I think the way that he approached natural history while taking into account genetics makes him very important. Much of the research that we do in ecology has been driven by our understanding of genetic phenomenon. That said I am biased and am interested in speciation processes and diversity in Coleoptera.

    On a separate note I am stressing because my school is revamping the comps process. So I don’t even know what mine will be like. Right now you walk in and for 2 hours 5 professors grill you over anything in “biology”. All sorts of alternatives are being thrown around some sound good and others sound like less fun than the current situation. Best of luck on yours!

    • TGIQ December 3, 2010 at 8:12 PM

      Interesting perspective, Heath…thanks!

      And yeah, it’s nerve-wracking when they change major components like the comps, especially if you’re the “guinea pig” generation. It can be very helpful to ask those who have gone before about their own experienes with comps (well, helpful or terrifying, depending on who you ask)…personally, I wouldn’t be happy if they changed the process on me at this point. I like having at least a general idea of what to expect.

  3. biobabbler December 3, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    oh, you made my head hurt…

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