Ecological Society of America through the years

"A meeting was held at Columbus, Ohio, on December 28th, 1915, at which it was decided to organize the Ecological Society of America...." Join us as we chart the Society's progress in its first century. This interactive timeline lets you explore events from 1915 up to the Centennial, to be celebrated in 2015.

"The interests and activities of this society will be of the broadest character, embracing every phase of the relation of organisms to their environmental condition...;xNLx;;xNLx;The Society was founded for the purpose of unifying the science of ecology, stimulating research in all aspects of the discipline, encouraging communication among ecologists, and promoting the responsible application of ecological data and principles to the solution of environmental problems." (Geographical Review, 1916)

1913-07-02 06:02:53

International Phytogeographic Excursion

American ecologists hosted a major scientific tour of natural sites in the U.S.

1913-12-15 00:00:00

Cowles and Tansley

ESA founder Henry Chandler Cowles (left; 1868-1939) with Sir Arthur George Tansley.

1914-12-15 00:00:00

In a Hotel Lobby

The first discussions on the formation of an ecological society took place in 1914 in the lobby of the Hotel Walton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at a meeting of animal and plant ecologists organized by Henry Chandler Cowles.

1915-12-28 00:00:00

It's Official!

The Ecological Society of America started December 28th, 1915, in Columbus, OH, at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

1917-01-01 16:28:20

Bulletin launched

ESA's oldest journal began publication in 1917. It is currently an open access, online journal published quarterly.

1917-01-06 15:39:09

Natural Conditions Committee

Formed in 1917 and chaired by Victor Shelford.

1917-07-02 06:02:53

Board Resolution: Fisheries

Resolution to establish national fisheries laboratories

1920-01-01 00:00:00

First issue of Ecology

Volume 1, Issue 1 was published in January 1920

1922-06-01 00:00:00

Glacier Bay

A committee was appointed to discuss the future of Glacier Bay, Alaska, with W. S. Cooper as the chair.

1923-06-15 10:31:22

The First Ten Years

Read a summary of ESA's first 10 years, 1915-1925

1926-06-15 10:31:22

Naturalist's Guide

After 10 years of work under the leadership of Victor Shelford, ESA published A Naturalist’s Guide to the Americas.

1926-08-18 00:00:00

Early Meeting at Cornell

This photograph includes sixteen founding members of the Society. These were plant ecologists attending the Botanical Congress. Click on the link below to find out who's who. Courtesy Dr. Robert L. Burgess collection.

1927-12-20 00:00:00


ESA is officially incorporated in the state of Wisconsin on December 20, 1927.

1928-06-15 00:00:00

Concerns raised about ESA advocacy

ESA continued to pass resolutions encouraging environmental protection, but ...

1930-06-15 00:00:00

Ecological Monographs published

Discussed in 1928, this new journal became a reality with distribution of the first issue early in 1930.

1933-11-15 19:45:56

In the Great Depression

Membership reached 500 by 1925, peaked at 645 in 1928, and declined during the Depression to 546 by 1934.

1935-06-15 10:31:22

ESA's Second Decade

Read a summary of the second 10 years, 1925-1935

1936-12-06 17:36:40

Concurrent sessions introduced

The 1936 annual meeting, held in Atlantic City, NJ, was the first to have two concurrent sessions.

1936-12-28 00:00:00

Western Chapter Created

ESA's earliest chapter was formed with F.A. Pitelka as Chair. The Chapter was dissolved in 2008 (for a third time).

1937-12-08 17:14:08

ESA updates constitution

ESA changes constitution and bylaws; makes Secretary-Treasurer two positions.

1939-09-12 13:42:57

Death of H. C. Cowles

Henry Chandler Cowles was a charter member of ESA and its 3rd president in 1918.

1942-12-06 11:47:28

Annual meetings canceled due to war

The meetings of 1942 and 1943 were held "by mail" and "in the pages of the Bulletin" due to travel restrictions.

1943-08-15 03:08:14

Repository selected

After much searching, the University of Cincinnati is selected as a repository for ESA's historical records.

1944-12-28 00:00:00

Historical Records Committee

The Standing Committee on Historical Records was established. W.A. Dreyer was the original chair and remained so until 1975.

1945-06-15 10:31:22

ESA's Third Decade: The War Years

Read a summary of the third 10 years, 1935-1945

1948-12-28 00:00:00

George Mercer Award

This award is given to ecologists at the beginning of their careers. Edsko Jerry Dyksterhuis ( ) received the first award in 1949.

1950-09-11 00:00:00

Nature Conservancy September 1950

The Ecologists Union changed its name to The Nature Conservancy.

1950-12-27 00:00:00

Human Ecology December 1950

At the AAAS meeting in Cleveland ESA was joint sponsor of a session on Science and Human Values, which included several talks on human ecology.

1950-12-30 00:00:00

Applied Ecology: Guiding Principles

The Committee on Applied Ecology set as its goal for 1949-1950 to find ways to obtain and apply ecological knowledge before emergencies arose.

1951-09-10 00:00:00

Applied Ecology: Conserving Water

The Committee on Applied Ecology organized a symposium on the application of ecology to water conservation at ESA's annual meeting.

1952-09-01 00:00:00

Committee on Microenvironment September 1952

ESA authorized the organization of the Committee on Microenvironment in September 1952.

1953-06-01 00:00:00

International Protection of Nature

James A. Macnab called on ESA to align itself with goals of the International Union for the Protection of Nature

1953-08-15 00:00:00

Program Committee

Formed in 1953 as the Program Committee, this has also been known as the Local Arrangements Committee and, since 1987, as the Future Meetings Committee.

1953-12-28 00:00:00

Eminent Ecologist Award

The Eminent Ecologist Award was established. The first official recipient was Henry Shoemaker Conard (1874-1971) in 1954, however...

1954-09-02 00:00:00

Human Ecology Symposium September 1954

The annual meeting in Gainesville featured a symposium on Perspectives in Human Ecology

1954-09-06 00:00:00

"What Is Ecology?" 1954

Lee R. Dice titled his presidential address at the Gainesville annual meeting "What Is Ecology?"

1955-03-01 00:00:00

Natural Resources Council of America

ESA debates membership in the Natural Resources Council, which promotes conservation.

1956-08-15 00:00:00

Local Arrangements Committee

First founded in 1956, this committee has gone by various names in its 50-plus year history. Historical info at link below; more details coming soon!

1956-08-29 00:00:00

Animal Behavior and Sociobiology Section 1956-1960

A new Section on Animal Behavior and Sociobiology is authorized.

1956-12-30 00:00:00

Human Ecology 1956-1959

The Committee on Human Ecology sponsored symposia at ESA and AAAS annual meetings.

1957-01-01 00:00:00

Ecology's Relation to Applied Fields 1957

Symposium on Applications of Ecology published in Ecology.

1957-08-27 00:00:00

Ecological Policy Panel 1957

Paul Sears urged ESA to form new committee on ecological policy.

1957-12-30 00:00:00

Radiation Ecology 1954-1957

Various events drew attention to radioactivity and radiation ecology..

1958-03-15 00:00:00

Parliament of Science 1958

AAAS invited scientists, including members of ESA to a Parliament of Science in Washington, D.C.

1959-12-31 00:00:00

Environmental Alerts 1956-1959

The reports of the Committee on Applied Ecology sounded a new note of alarm about looming environmental problems.

1960-12-27 00:00:00

Population Biology Symposium

Population Biology was the topic of a symposium at the joint meeting with AAAS

1961-08-15 00:00:00

Aquatic Ecology Section

The purpose of the Aquatic Ecology Section of the Ecological Society of America is to advance, coordinate, and assist research and dissemination of theoretical and applied knowledge in all branches of aquatic ecology and to act as a liaison agency between investigators, societies, or any groups interested in this discipline and other scientific fields.

1962-08-28 00:00:00

Space Ecology: A New Frontier

August 1962. A symposium on "Space Biology: Ecological Aspects" was held at the annual meeting in Corvallis, Oregon.

1962-12-27 00:00:00

Radioecology and Fallout

December 1962. Radioecology was prominent at the AAAS meeting in Philadelphia, with two sessions arranged by ESA's Radioecology Committee

1963-01-25 00:00:00

AIBS' Brush with Extinction 1963

ESA President W. Frank Blair urged support as controversy threatened the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Ecological Society of America through the years

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