The Odum School of Ecology is small and new, with a mission of doing the best ecological science we know. Today, this is a daunting task. With so many ecological problems, how do we select which ones to tackle, much less claim to really solve? A critically important characteristic of the Odum School is to create a different, vibrant environment that all of us – staff, faculty, alumni, friends and especially students – carry not only in our work but in our everyday lives.
Recently, we’ve discussed what characteristics allow great businesses and teams to be great. A few are risk, failure, and ideas. The first step to discovery is taking risks. A new experiment or a long-term ecological field project is loaded with risks, but this is essential to finding out novel answers. Next, if we are truly taking risks, then failure is certain (at least sometimes). In a creative world, whatever the pursuit, failure is good because it brings about new ways of looking at problems and the world at large. This is very important to instill in our students and we continue to restructure our courses and seminars to embrace failure…failure’s fun! Last, we want big ideas…what are ecosystems, how are they put together, what types of disease drive and change ecosystems, how do we protect and conserve the ecosystems of today to adjust to the human presence of tomorrow? Simple questions need big ideas.
Like our changing ecology, the Odum School is continually evolving and progressing. With tough ecological problems we always see new opportunities to create ecological solutions.