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Source: Walter Dodds 785-532-6998,
News release prepared by: Stephanie Jacques, 785-532-0101,

Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009


MANHATTAN -- A simple task of organizing one ecologist's thoughts and ideas has become a tool for stimulating intellectual debate among young scientists.

Walter Dodds, university distinguished professor of biology at Kansas State University, proposes discussion on more than 60 ecological laws, theories and unresolved general questions about ecology in his new book, "Laws, Theories and Patterns in Ecology," published by University of California Press. The book is directed toward undergraduate and graduate students with a general understanding of ecological concepts.

"My hope is that young scientists will turn a critical eye toward their research and that of others with respect to its contribution to a predictive science," Dodds said. "Without a firm foundation and predictive ability, science is of limited use to humanity in general."

A strong believer that basic intellectual thought forms the basis for a field of knowledge, Dodds encourages debate about ecology. In 2004, he gave a 50-minute presentation at the University of New Mexico. Following that presentation was an hour of heated discussion criticizing his ideas. Dodds said that he was more intellectually stimulated by that meeting than most any other time in his academic life, and he now welcomes such discussion to fuel intellectual thought.

"If nothing else, I hope to transmit the intellectual excitement of those discussions to readers of this book," he said. "I particularly anticipate the possibility that graduate students will think deeply about the issues presented and look forward to finding out from them how spectacularly wrong the ideas presented in the book are."

Dodds began his curiosity-driven ecological research by questioning common assumptions made about ecology. Although these questions may have developed into opinions and ideas that are not always within the mainstream of thought, he hopes they will stimulate discussion necessary to lead to better science, he said.

"Now we are being called to solve one of humanity's great challenges, finding a way to live on Earth without destroying the capacity of ecosystems to support us," Dodds said. "We are changing the planet in ways it has not been changed before, so a firm understanding of ecological principles and predictive ability is required to react to and anticipate ecological changes."

Dodds also is the author of other books, including "Humanity's Footprint: Momentum, Impact and Our Global Environment." At K-State, he is coordinator of aquatic and hydrological research at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, and a co-principal investigator on the Long Term Ecological Research Grant, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.