The Emerging Field of Aeroecology

The classic mindset of philosophers centers on one’s personal experience. Humans have difficulty seeing different perspectives. Surely there can be no light beyond 390-700 nm. These astral bodies appear to move around us, we must be at the center of the universe. I spend all of my time on the ground, so all of that stuff above me is just empty space. For humans to think outside of their daily experience, we must challenge our perceptions. Thus enters “aeroecology”.

Aeroecology views the lower atmosphere as an important habitat for flying animals (as opposed to empty space). Be they birds, bacteria, or other interesting biological material, life on this planet has evolved wherever resources are available, even the sky. Undeterred by the omnipresent force of gravity, some living things spend a non-trivial amount of their lifespan on the wind. Still others interact with the airborne organisms in competition for resources. As humanity takes to the sky, moving from the age of flight to the era of crowded skies, what happens to the aerial ecosystem? What changes will we affect as we climb skywards? How will these things change us? These are the questions being asked by scientists as we venture into the field of aeroecology.

Our group, in conjunction with fellow researchers at the University of Oklahoma, is pioneer in this emerging field. In 2017, aeroecology researchers at OU were recognized as a University Strategic Organization. This funding commitment by the Office of the Vice President of Research at OU cements aeroecology as one of the top interdisciplinary initiatives on campus, a driving force for the research direction of the university. We are proud to be a part of this important work by developing new technologies to study the life above.