Developing a translational ecology workforce
We define a translational ecologist as a professional ecologist with diverse disciplinary expertise and skill sets, as well as a suitable personal disposition, who engages across social, professional, and disciplinary boundaries to partner with decision makers to achieve practical environmental solutions. Becoming a translational ecologist requires specific attention to obtaining critical non-scientific disciplinary breadth and skills that are not typically gained through graduate-level education. Here, we outline a need for individuals with broad training in interdisciplinary skills, use our personal experiences as a basis for assessing the types of interdisciplinary skills that would benefit potential translational ecologists, and present steps that interested ecologists may take toward becoming translational. Skills relevant to translational ecologists may be garnered through personal experiences, informal training, short courses, fellowships, and graduate programs, among others. We argue that a translational ecology workforce is needed to bridge the gap between science and natural resource decisions. Furthermore, we argue that this task is a cooperative responsibility of individuals interested in pursuing these careers, educational institutions interested in training scientists for professional roles outside of academia, and employers seeking to hire skilled workers who can foster stakeholder-engaged decision making.