Ecology Abstracts – Reviewed Spring 2001

Reviewed by Domenico Bonanni, Arizona State University Libraries, Tempe,
Arizona, March 2001.

Ecology Abstracts: A Research Tool for Environmental Anthropology via
Cambridge Scientific Abstract’s (CSA) Internet Database Service (IDS), Version
5.0, 2001. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, 7200 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda,
Maryland 20814, phone 800-843-7751. The primary delivery of Ecology
is directly from Cambridge Scientific Abstracts via IDS.

Ecology Abstracts may also be delivered via CD-ROM, or magnetic tape.
Ecology Abstracts is also available from National Information Services
Corporation (NISC). CSA provides the database in full, from 1982 to present.
Ecology Abstracts is sold as a site license with unlimited usage. Pricing
is contingent upon FTE, and consortia agreements may be negotiated. A fact sheet
is available at: Ecology


Environmental research has always been an important
aspect of scholarly anthropology work. With the increase in environmental
concerns in the last 20 years, the field of anthropology has made significant
contributions to the general environmental research field. Some environmental
approaches in anthropology include paleoecology, primate ecology, ethnoecology,
pastoral ecology, human adaptability studies, and landscape ecology.
Environmental anthropologists interested in these areas find the research is
very interdisciplinary in scope and beyond the breadth of traditional
anthropological research tools. Rated by diversity of coverage and relevance to
environmental anthropological research, Ecology Abstracts stands out as
being a valuable bibliographic tool for current research in the ecological
approach to anthropology. Of the two interfaces available (Cambridge Scientific
Abstracts IDS interface or National Information Services Corporation (NISC)
CD-ROM), this review is based upon the CSA Web based interface called Internet
Database Service (IDS).

Scope and Coverage:

CSA’s Ecology Abstracts has over 215,500
records in the database. Records range in time from 1982 to present. Cambridge
Scientific Abstracts adds 1,300 new bibliographic citations, with abstracts, per
month to the database. CSA also adds Web related citations to the database on a
monthly basis. These Web based sources are selected by experts in the field of

Ecology Abstracts includes all of the bibliographic citations
available (since 1982) in the CSA print equivalent, Ecology Abstracts
(which has greater time coverage because it begins in 1980). Ecology
sources includes academic literature available in journals, books,
published conference proceedings, and governmental reports such as publications
from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Ecology Abstracts indexes 278
serials for inclusion in the database. There are three levels of coverage
included in the index, core, priority, and selective. Core sources are indexed
cover-to-cover; all articles in each issue are included. Priority sources are
the next level of coverage, which includes over 50 percent of the articles in
each issue. The selective sources level of coverage includes less than 50
percent of the material. Haas, et al., in “Ecology and Ecosystem Management:
Core Journals and Indexes (p. 10),” conducted a study on the level of coverage
available in Ecology Abstracts and other environmental journals. Using a
sample of core journals indexed between 1990-1996″, Ecology Abstracts

retrieved five times as many records on the topic of “ecosystem management” than
did the database BIOSIS (128 in BIOSIS compared to 686 in Ecology
). Haas, et al. (p.16) further illustrate that Ecology
indexes the core ecology titles more completely than BIOSIS. A
listing of journals indexed can be displayed via the database by clicking on the
Ecology Abstracts fact sheet, available on the first menu. It is also
available from the CSA Web site at Serials
Source List

Ecology Abstracts indexes articles in many languages. However, based
upon a test search by this reviewer, 90% of the articles indexed in the database
are in English. All of the citations include abstracts. Regardless of the
original language of the published item, all of the citations and abstracts are
in English, though foreign publications do include summaries in other languages.
Using the “Advanced Search” mode, users can easily limit the search by language
or summary language.

Environmental anthropologists will find the sum and substance of current
ecology research across a wide range of disciplines in Ecology Abstracts.
According to CSA, the subject focus of the database is on how organisms of all
kinds – microbes, plants, and animals – interact with their environments and
with other organisms. After conducting preliminary searches based on current
environmental research reported in the article, “Environments and
Environmentalisms in Anthropological Research: Facing A New Millennium” (Little,
p. 254) some relevant topics for anthropology covered in the database include
evolutionary biology, economics, and systems analysis as they relate to
ecosystems or the environment. The article identifies the journal Human
as being a key forum for the field (Little, p. 256), and this
journal is indexed by Ecology Abstracts. Due to its diversity and ample
coverage in the field of ecology, the database may be used as the primary tool
for ecology research. Environmental anthropologists will appreciate knowing that
the transdiscipinary subject scope of environmental anthropology, including
cultural ecology, ecosystem ecology, evolutionary ecology, ethnoecology,
historical ecology, and global ecology, are well represented.

The geographic scope of Ecology Abstracts is truly global. The
Descriptors field (DE) includes terms for continents, countries, states, and
cities. A keyword search by this reviewer using the terms “human ecology and
deforestation” yielded search results that included countries such as Ecuador,
Kenya, Brazil, India, Nepal, Venezuela, Zambia, and the United States.
Unfortunately, the database cannot be searched by Geographic Area field code, so
researchers will have to use either a Keyword or Descriptor search. A majority
of the publications represented are from the Americas and Europe, but research
in countries such as China, Japan, and Russia is also included.

Format and Organization:

Cambridge Scientific Abstracts uses a Web
based interface called Internet Database Service (IDS) to deliver their
bibliographic databases. For this review, Ecology Abstracts was accessed
via the Internet using IDS version 5.0 on the MS Explorer browser (Version 5.5).
When started, IDS opens the browser window with the IDS interface. At the top of
the browser window, there is a default header that gives users access to
background information on CSA, fact pages for databases available from CSA,
contact information, links to other CSA databases, and access to online help
pages. The browser window is split into two screens. On the left side, the
researcher may select a “Quick Search” or “Advanced Search” feature, and on the
right side of the screen, the CSA database files are listed. Depending on the
contractual agreement with CSA, the researcher does have the option to switch to
any of the 50 available bibliographic databases offered by CSA. At Arizona State
University, CSA has scripted the browser to default to the Ecology
file. Ecology Abstracts is a subset of the larger database
collections Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences and Pollution
Management, and depending on how it is configured, researchers at some
institutions may need to search these larger databases in order to access the
Ecology Abstracts file.

Electronic Record Structure, Retrieval, and Display:

IDS uses the AltaVista search engine for both the “Quick” and
“Advanced” search features. Researchers who are experienced with
database and Internet searching will find the “Quick Search” and
“Advanced Search” forms easy to use. The “Quick Search” option is the
default, so at the top of the left frame, under the title “Quick
Search”, a text box search window is available to enter search terms.
The search window allows users to input single or multiple terms, up to
50 characters in length. A drop- down list allows a researcher to
conduct a “Keyword” search of the Title, Author, Descriptors, and other
identifier fields. Users may also choose to search for words in Title
only, in Author, or in Journal Name (Source) fields. The “Anywhere”
option may be used to search for the words in all fields of a record.
The text box allows for multiple “Keyword” searching. A radio button
option allows the users to search using “Exact Phrase,” “Any of the
Words,” or “All of the Words.” Choosing “Exact Phrase” will allow the
researcher to find records that contain all words appearing exactly as
entered. Choosing “Any of the Words” will allow the user to find
records that contain one or more words, as if to find GIS or remote
sensing. Choosing “All of the Words” will allow the user to find
records that contain all words entered, not necessarily adjacent, as if
to find paleoecology and Anasazi. Using a drop-down list, users can
limit their searches by specifying date ranges. The default range is
from 1982 to the current year. At the bottom of the “Quick Search”
frame, users can select a drop-down list to specify how to sort search
results (whether by relevancy or publication date) and how the results
will be displayed, either by citation only, citation and abstracts, or
full record.

After entering a single keyword or multiple keywords in the search text box,
the user must then click on the “Search” button. As of this review, hitting the
enter key will not enact a search. The search results are then displayed on the
right side of the browser window. The result lists are separated into three
different categories: a list of records from EcologyAbstracts, a list of
new records, some not yet in the database, and a list of Web related resources.
Users can toggle between the different listings, by simply clicking on the
category of interest. The default result list is the listing of records from
Ecology Abstracts, so if you were interested in the Web related
resources, you would click on the Web Related list to see the results in the
window. The brief citation labels (default setting) list the Title, Author, and
Source fields. Unfortunately, the citation field labels are abbreviated, so
users will have to learn what the abbreviations represent, (e.g.) SO = Source

The full citation and abstract are easy to read and very complete. The record
lists are displayed in groups of 25, so if there are more than 25, the
researcher has to select the next group at the bottom of the screen. At the top
and bottom of the screen there is the option to Save/Print/Email records.
Because the window is divided into two frames, the current search, either
“Quick” or “Advanced”, is always displayed on the left-hand side of the window.
Users can at anytime input a new search term or revise the previous search by
manipulating the search box and pull-down menus on the left side of the screen.
To conduct another search, simply select the “Search Again” button at the bottom
of the left frame.

The “Advanced Search” has two options for more sophisticated searching.
First, users can use the Search Strategy text boxes at the top of the right hand
side of the frame to combine up to four terms. The Search Strategy text boxes
are separated by a series of pull-down menus that allow you to combine the
search terms using Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT). Proximity operators (WITHIN,
NEAR, BEFORE, AFTER) are another available option. To the left of each of the
Search boxes are a series of pull-down menus. Researchers can use these
pull-down menus to choose from 19 fields (e.g. Author, Title, Agency, Editor,
and Source) to target their searches. As in the “Quick Search” form, users may
truncate their terms by using the wildcard character “*” to expand a term (e.g.
environment*), and by using the “?” to find a single character wild card for
alternate spellings (e.g. wom?n). For more sophisticated searchers, there is a
Command-Line Search box at the bottom of the right frame. Users can enter
complete search strategies using Boolean operators and field codes. For example,
entering de=dental and py=(1990 or 1991) retrieves records with the publication
year (PY) of 1990 or 1991 that have dental in the Descriptors field. If you
enter a search in both the Search Strategy boxes and the Command Line box, only
the search in the Command-Line box will be retrieved. Altogether, both the
“Quick” and “Advanced” search options are easy to use and learn. Users familiar
with using Internet search engines and Web based databases will have a
particular advantage.

The following field codes are found in the records of Ecology

They are listed in alphabetical order by two-letter code.

AB = Abstract LA = Language
AF = Author Affiliation NT = Notes
AN =
Accession Number NU = Other Numbers
AU = Authors OT = Original Title
= Corporate Author PB = Publisher
CF = Conference PT = Publication Type

CL = Classification Code PY = Publication Year
DE = Descriptors SF =
Subfile Name
ED = Editor SL = Summary Language
ER = Environmental Regime
SO = Source
IB = ISBN TI = Title
ID = Identifiers TR = ASFA Input Center
IS = ISSN UD = Update

Indexing and Subject Areas:

A “Thesaurus Search” is available on the
left of the screen, at the bottom of the search window. A Life Sciences
Thesaurus provides a set of standard life science terms for subject searching in
ecology. The thesaurus indicates to the researcher, which terms to use to
retrieve the maximum number of relevant documents. The thesaurus terms describe
the contents of publications consistently, and comprehensively. These indexed
terms are listed in the Descriptors field (DE=) of each record added to a
database so the thesaurus terms may be searched in the Descriptor field for
comprehensive subject searching. The “Thesaurus Search” allows the researcher to
browse for terms via a hierarchical, alphabetical, or rotated index display.
These display formats allow you to navigate the thesaurus alphabetically or
through the hierarchical relationships between related terms. After finding
appropriate terms, you can submit a search for those terms in the database
Descriptors field.

User Guidance:

IDS provides easy access to online help on all of its
windows and search screens. There is a help button that is always present in the
top right hand side of the screen. Also, at the top of the screen, there is a
consistent header that provides quick access to other useful information such as
background information on CSA; information on electronic journals and databases
available; news, hot topics; information on the IDS service; support
information; and contact information. Finally, next to some items (e.g. “Your
Search” text box and the summary of search results) there is a blue “I” icon
that, upon clicking, takes the researcher directly to the online help. CSA also
can provide, upon request, a handy one-page, double- sided Quick Reference Card
(for all IDS databases) to subscribers and libraries. The Quick Reference Card
is also available on the CSA Web site in PDF format.

Document Availability:

IDS does not provide online document delivery.
The database prompts the users to consult their college or university library or
inter-library loan office for full- text documents cited in the database. CSA
does provide a listing of organizations that can fulfill full-text document
requests. Of course, each has it’s own particular requesting procedure and
payment requirements. There is also a “Locate Document” option available on each
citation, which will allow the researcher to link to the institution’s online
catalog, or it’s e-journal subscription databases.

Comparisons with Related Resources:

Environmental anthropologists may
consider supplementing their research with BIOSIS Previews (corresponding to the
Biological Abstracts database), a Web accessible database available from
Silverplatter via their WEBSPIRS interface. Although BIOSIS reviews indexes a
greater number of articles in ecology and related sciences (Haas, p.16),
Ecology Abstracts indexes (at the time of the article) 23 core ecology
journals more completely. For comprehensive research in the environmental
sciences and environmental anthropology, researchers should compliment a search
in the subject-focused database Ecology Abstracts with the broader
multidisciplined BIOSIS Previews for complete subject coverage.

Recommendations for Improvement:

Geographic subject searching would
improve if a geographic field code were added to the citation record. This would
give the researcher the ability to more easily limit a search to a specific
geographic area. The addition of a “Search History” option in the “Quick Search”
mode would provide novice searchers an easy way to replicate their searches. At
the time of this review, a search history option is restricted to the “Advanced
Search” mode only. Currently, CSA provides general help pages for all of the IDS
databases. A subject specific help page designed with Ecology Abstracts
in mind could provide environmental researchers insight on how to use the
database most effectively. Although the database does have anthropology related
journals (Human Ecology; International Journal of Primatology;
Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Remote Sensing of Environment),
environmental anthropology researchers would benefit with the addition of such
journals as Journal of Political Ecology; Capitalism, Nature,
Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion; and Terra
Nova: Nature and Culture

Positive Aspects:

The greatest value of Ecology Abstracts is
its interdisciplinary scope. Although it was not designed with the environmental
anthropologist in mind, its focus on how organisms interact with the environment
makes it relevant to anthropological research on such topics as ecosystem
management, land reclamation, and evolutionary biology. Ecology
‘ comprehensive coverage is supplemented with a Web Resources
database. Editors at Cambridge Scientific Abstracts create records, complete
with links, to selected academic, governmental, scientific, and technical Web
resources. Both “Quick” and “Advanced” searches will retrieve these records. All
links are checked monthly to ensure that URL’s are current. The “Recent
References Related to Your Search” service supplements Ecology Abstracts
by providing daily updates of citations from over 1000 journals in the
biological, aquatic, and environmental sciences which may not appear in
Ecology Abstracts until the next monthly update. Due to its diversity of
coverage and relevance to environmental anthropological research, Ecology
proves to be a valuable bibliographic tool for environmental

References Cited:

Haas, Stephanie C. , Lee, Catherine W., Battiste, Anita L., “Ecology and
Ecosystem Management: Core Journals and Indexes.” Science & Technology
18(1999): 3-24.

Little, Paul E., “Environments and Environmentalisms in Anthropological
Research: Facing a New Millenium.” Annual Review of Anthropology
28(1999): 253-284.

Scigliano, Marisa, “Biological Sciences Database.” The Charleston
1 (January 2000).

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