One of the major trends in ecology is the increased use of mathematical modeling, which often requires the use of computers. Mathematical formulas are used to simulate population fluctuations, mineral cycling, and energy flow. Models can be used to discover where human knowledge is inadequate, to aid in making generalizations and formulating ecological principles, and to help predict the fate of ecosystems under given sets of circumstances.

The growing field of systems ecology uses theoretical analysis and experimental methods to study the disruption of ecosystems and the dynamics of their reconstruction. Systems ecology requires people trained in a wide variety of disciplines: mathematics, computer technology, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, climatology, and taxonomy.

Ecologists are more and more involved in solving problems caused by increased human population, increased pollution, increased need for energy, and increased attempts to destroy ecosystems for human use. Ecology will be needed to help solve the problems of feeding the world's people, as well as to solve conservation problems ranging from the management of all kinds of native plants and wildlife to the preservation of endangered species.