Scope and Direction

First posted on the ESA website in 2003 and supported by the National Science Foundation from 2000-2008, Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE) is designed to improve ecology teaching by helping undergraduate faculty include more student-active teaching approaches in ecology courses, both in lecture and in lab. TIEE evolved through discussions in the Education Section of ESA and because TIEE relies on ecologists for submissions, reviews, evaluation, and new ideas, it is a community effort.


The Four Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework was developed by a community of ecologists and approved by the Ecological Society of America in 2018. The 4DEE Framework emphasizes teaching ecology by drawing connections among elements belonging to the following four dimensions:

  1. Core Ecological Concepts: an array of concepts critical to understanding ecology, ranging from the individual organism to the biosphere
  2. Ecology Practices: approaches and skills used in and necessary for doing science
  3. Human-Environment Interactions: bi-directional interrelationship between humans and the Earth's biota and physical environment
  4. Cross-cutting Themes: elements that are often thought of as approaches or ways of thinking that cut across biological scale and levels of organization

The 4DEE Framework encourages students to think like an ecologist, i.e., to move teaching beyond a focus on core concepts and practices to immerse students in thinking about the connections and interactions among these four dimensions. Such a cross-dimensional approach is familiar to the experiences of many ecologists and is fundamental to solving ecological problems requiring integration of knowledge across disciplines, scales, and regions. The 4DEE Framework encourages students to adopt an integrative, global perspective, while guiding learners towards higher-level thinking that will serve them well in disciplines beyond ecology. With this in mind, TIEE encourages module authors to review the 4DEE Framework and to incorporate and integrate multiple dimensions into their module. While you don't have to include or connect across all four dimensions or even connect all triads or pairs of dimensions, the greater the integration, the better! Higher levels of application of the framework occur when more than one 4DEE dimension is integrated across two or more dimensions. The greater the numbers and depths of connections, the higher the level of application of the framework, and the more likely students will be to appreciate the role of ecology in addressing many of the world's pressing environmental issues.

Traditionally, ecology lab and field exercises focus on two of the 4DEE dimensions by connecting Ecology Practices with Core Ecological Concepts. For instance, students are shown how the identification and enumeration of species relates to measures of diversity. Incorporating Cross-cutting Themes and Human-Environment Interactions can facilitate student engagement and extend the exercise through integration of contemporary environmental issues and their human consequences. For example, a diversity exercise could be expanded to illustrate how and why diversity changes over space and time.

To illustrate how the dimensions of the 4DEE Framework could be integrated, an TIEE-module author considering an exercise on the Janzen-Connell seedling dispersal hypothesis initially might focus on gathering data on seedling dispersal and recruitment related to distance from the maternal plant (Ecological Practices) with subsequent analysis and interpretation, figure construction, and presentation to show that relationship to seedling success (Core Ecological Concepts). Connection to the Human-Environment Interactions dimension might be approached by relating tree distribution patterns to timber harvesting practices in tropical forests and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and weather. In addition, the module could incorporate the Cross-cutting Themes dimension by comparing the energy transformation capabilities of tropical forests with different timber-harvesting practices.

For many, the easiest approach to 4DEE is to organize your module around the dimensions of the 4DEE Framework beginning with the dimensions of Core Ecology Concepts and Ecology Practices. For others, you might start with an issue related to the Human-Environment Interaction dimension. The next step is to incorporate at least one other dimension with a focus on including class activities that require students to integrate across dimensions.

Further resources that illustrate implementation of the 4DEE Framework can be found on the ESA 4DEE website.


We are currently seeking submissions of Experiments and Issues for the next volume of TIEE (Issues can be either Figure Sets or Data Sets). We will not be accepting submissions of Research papers for the current volume. Authors of research papers should consider submitting them to Ecosphere. Submissions will undergo review, and if accepted, will become a part of a peer-reviewed publication of educational materials offered through ESA. Anticipated time between submission and initial decision is 6 weeks.

Please submit in Word format, using the template submission form, to (christopher.beck@emory.edu).

If you have any questions please contact Christopher Beck, Lead editor (christopher.beck@emory.edu).

Instructions for Authors

Submission Checklist (all submission types)