The word ‘ecology’ did not exist until 1867, and was not used in an English publication until 1876; Darwin himself never used it, yet it was his work on the complex interactions of organisms and habitats that inspired the word’s creation and he is often cited as the ‘father of ecology’.
In ‘Was Darwin an ecologist?’ you can read about modern ecology, and in the section ‘What’s in a name’ find out about how the word ‘ecology’ came into being and what it meant in the nineteenth century. Read also about Darwin’s intellectual context, about Darwin’s spectacular prediction of co-adaptation in an orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) and a Sphinx moth, and also about Darwin’s own experiments.
In ‘Beauty and the seed’ read about a puzzle that Darwin never solved – why some plants produce seeds that are not good for birds to eat yet are still bright and attractive to look at – and about the modern ecologist who cracked it.
In ‘The evolution of honeycomb’ read about Darwin’s experiments and observations on hive-making bees, and his explanation of the apparently engineered regularity of the wax cells in honeycomb.
In ‘Darwin and Down’ look at Darwin’s use of his own garden and his local environment in rural Kent in his research into a whole range of questions on plants, insects, animals, and their habitats. You can also read more about Darwin’s hothouse and the plants he experimented on there.