From natural history to continental scale perspectives: an overview of contributions by Australian entomologists to applied ecology - a play in three acts.
Act 1 - prequel: From the first European settlement to the formation of the Australian Entomological Society, much of Australian entomology was driven by the need to understand and manage a raft of indigenous and invasive pest insect species. This very applied imperative influenced how people approached ecology, which tended to be very much autecological: species focused questions addressing the distribution and abundance of the organism. Not surprisingly that applied focus continued after the formation of the society in 1964, which marks the beginning of Act 2 - The last 50 years. Here I focus in part on what has been published in the flagship journal of the society since its inception and analyse the trends that are evident. The emphasis on basic biology is reflected in the publication trends in the society's journal. I use some of the key native and imported pests - locusts, Helicoverpa, Queensland fruit flies, sugar cane-feeding scarabs, diamondback moth - to illustrate how ecological thinking has developed. There were some Australian giants in the field of population ecology, and their public disagreements continue to reverberate. But there have been many notable contributions by lesser mortals, if only students and their mentors would read and cite appropriately! One can only allude to the encore, or Act 3 - the sequel or the next 25-50 years. The thinking of Australian entomologists continues to be at the forefront of spatial ecology, perhaps reflecting the scale at which fieldwork is undertaken in Australia. Other younger members of the society will no doubt write the epitaph and obituaries of the current crop of researchers and judge their contributions accordingly.