Background/Question/Methods In 2018, 32 years after Risser pointed to the need for ESA to “direct our efforts toward increasing ecological literacy”, ESA’s Governing Board unanimously endorsed the Four-Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) Framework establishing an eco-literacy framework to foster basic comprehension of ecological terminology and concepts—and to improve ecological and environmental public policy. The 4DEE Subcommittee (of ESA’s Committee on Diversity and Education) began implementation by reaching out to instructors, developing 4DEE material, and writing grants. One component of outreach was the formation of working groups on assessment, video/media, and non-majors/general education. This last group recognized that although initially focused on undergraduate ecology courses, 4DEE could and needed to expand beyond courses with ecology and environmental components, e.g. introductory biology, graduate-level ecology, and even K12. Risser’s plea was neither centered on nor limited to ecology and environmentally-focused courses, but rather specifically called for “efforts toward increasing ecological literacy, particularly in the public and at the undergraduate level”. In fact, given Risser’s emphasis on “the public”, and given the increasingly obvious need to address public misunderstanding, misapprehension, and misdirection to the use of science in developing public policy, the committee realized the absolutely critical importance of reaching and teaching beyond traditional ecology courses.
Results/Conclusions The 4DEE Framework contains 21 elements along four dimensions: Core Ecological Concepts (hierarchical levels from individuals through biosphere), Ecology Practices (approaches and methods), Human-Environment (bi-directional interactions), and Cross-Cutting Themes (structure, pathways, scale, and processes). Student interests and backgrounds for non-majors courses reflect that these are typically Gen-Ed courses for non-STEM students, courses taken by other STEM majors, and optional courses within the major. These students generally lack exposure to and understanding of ecological core content, practices and even cross-cutting dimensions. Nonetheless, they often bring greater interest in and have more experience along the human-environment dimension. As a result, while perhaps constrained in terms of presenting “traditional ecology material”, these courses offer unique opportunities to identify critical human-environment problems and to connect to effective public policy responses to these issues. Of particular interest to us, as ecologists, is that non-majors courses may be the only science course many students take and thus, the only opportunity to teach them the ecological literacy skills, nay scientific literacy, skills needed to address issues like biodiversity and global climate change. Non-majors courses represent a concrete opportunity to fulfill Risser’s plea to increase ecological literacy.