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Understanding Nature

Ecology for a New Generation


  1. Introduction

  2. We stand on their shoulders

  3. Biomes, life forms, and ecoregions

  4. Biomes: tundra and taiga

  5. Biomes: grassland

  6. Biomes: shrubland, thickets, and desert

  7. Biomes: savanna and forest

  8. Why are biomes where they are?

  9. Why are individual species where they are?

  10. Introduction to evolution: the modern synthesis

  11. Advances in microevolution, molecular evolution and evo-devo

  12. An autobiography of the Earth

  13. Introduction to statistics

  14. Population ecology basics

  15. Population ecology's profound questions

  16. Community ecology basics

  17. Theory in community ecology/competition

  18. Predation

  19. Succession

  20. Ecosystem ecology basics

  21. Energy

  22. Matter

  23. Ecosystem regulation

  24. Landscape ecology

  25. Wildlife ecology and habitat management

  26. Wildlife management for temperate farms and ranches

  27. Wildlife management in temperate forests

  28. Conservation biology

  29. Restoration ecology

  30. Aquatic ecology

  31. New perspectives in biogeography

  32. Wicked problems

  33. Epilogue - the evolution of an idea


Most college Biology and Environmental Science majors in the U.S., at least half of whom are health pre-professionals, are required to take a course in ecology as undergraduates.  Getting them sincerely interested in ecology and having them see the relevance of the course can be a challenge.  Students do not always have the math skills necessary to appreciate some of ecology’s theoretical underpinnings.  Their decreasing familiarity with the outdoors is a major obstacle.  


Enter Understanding Nature:  Ecology for a New Generation.  I spent 14 years teaching ecology in the standard format, followed by seven years of experimenting with different techniques to better reach students.  Comments on course reviews went from lukewarm in the standard format to the following:


“Over the course of the semester, I learned so much and fell madly in love with ecology.”

“This course has significantly changed my relationship with nature.”

“Nature study has value to every person on this earth, whether they believe it or not.”

“Walking into a forest will never be the same for me in the best way possible.”


How did I do it?  This book challenges ecology instructors to rethink how and what they teach about nature.  In this age of nature deficit disorder, anxiety, obesity, and screen addiction, students buy in if they see nature as therapy.


The goals of this innovative book are to: 

   (1) provide a straight-forward resource that teaches natural history and ecological content,

   (2) provide a way to instruct students that will heal both Earth and self. 

Ch 1 first page image.JPG

Photo: Students after building a shelter during wilderness training at USF, by Lou Weber

Features of Understanding Nature:

  • suggested field activities at the beginning of each chapter. 

  • a storytelling approach that presents the fundamental theories and concepts of natural history and ecology as they developed historically.

  • image-rich chapters with graphic organizers, written for the busy 21st Century student.

  • thinking questions and suggested research topics at the end of each chapter.


The book will be published by CRC Press.  It is expected to be in print April, 2023.​

Interested?  Discover what it takes to meet students where they are and have them fall in love with nature again.   More details are available by writing to Louise Weber at

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