last updated December 10, 1994

* * The most recent version of this file can be obtained by sending the * command "get ECOLOG-L FAQ" to

* * Please report any errors, omissions or other comments to the list owner, David Inouye (


        1.  What is the Ecological Society of America?
        2.  What is ECOLOG-L?
        3.  What is LISTSERV?
        4.  How do I subscribe to, or signoff from ECOLOG-L?
        5.  How and what kind of message can I post?
        6.  Why was my subscription cancelled?
        7.  How do I get a list of all subscribers?
        7.  What should I do when my e-mail address changes?
        9.  What to do if I am away for an extended period of time
            (vacation, field work, sabbatical leave)?
        10. How can I get files that are stored on the listserver (weekly
            archives, job file, etc.)?
        11. Where can I get more information about listserver?
        12. Who are the 'list owners', or 'moderators', and what do they do?
        13. How do I find the E-mail address of ...?
        14. What is Usenet/NETNEWS, and how do I use it?
        15. How to get A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources
        16. What is Gopher, Archie, WAIS, WWW, etc.
        17. Summary of Listserv commands.
        18. How to contact House of Representatives

1. What is the Ecological Society of America?

The ESA is a professional society of scientists working primarily in colleges and universities, governmental organizations, and private concerns. The object of the ESA is to promote the scientific study of organisms, both as individuals and as members of biological populations and communities, in relation to their environment; to facilitate the exchange of ideas among those interested in ecology; and to increase public knowledge and understanding of the environment.

More information about the ESA is available from the Public Affairs Office. Contact:

  2.  What is ECOLOG-L?
ECOLOG-L is a LISTSERV list maintained primarily for the benefit of members of the Ecological Society of America. This electronic discussion forum allows people who have a common interest in ecology and closely related fields to communicate with each other by electronic mail (E-mail). Subscription to the group is free and is not restricted to members of the ESA.

The main purpose of ECOLOG-L is to act as an electronic forum. If you send a message to the address it will be distributed by the mainframe computer at the University of Maryland to all subscribers. See also section 5 of this guide. Secondary functions of ECOLOG-L are the 'E-mail directory' (see section 6), and the 'file server' (see section 9).

The name ECOLOG-L stands for 'ECOLOGY', which had to be truncated to 8 characters to comply with addressing standards on Bitnet; by convention, listserv lists end in '-L'. ECOLOG-L was started in 1988 by David Inouye, and has grown to more than 1,700 subscribers in 40 countries (November 1994); in addition about 30,000 people read messages from ECOLOG-L via Usenet (see section 14).

The mainframe computer managing ECOLOG-L is located in College Park, Maryland. The software that runs ECOLOG-L is called LISTSERV.

   3. What is LISTSERV?
LISTSERV (stands for List Server) is a program that is mainly intended to help groups such as ECOLOG-L, and is installed on all major nodes in the Bitnet network. LISTSERV automatically redistributes all mail that is sent to the ECOLOG-L address, so that all subscribers get a copy. LISTSERV also keeps the master copy of the list of subscribers, and can make modifications to this list when asked to do so. It also keeps a log of messages posted to the list, and statistics about who has posted and how many times they have done so. There is also a gateway between ECOLOG-L and Netnews (the newsgroup for those who prefer to read messages via Netnews instead of an e-mail subscription to ECOLOG-L.

LISTSERV processes administrative requests that are sent by E-mail. Because LISTSERV is a program, not a human, a simple command language must be used. LISTSERV commands should be sent to When sending commands by E-mail, several commands (one line each) may be combined in one message. Commands (and the list and listserver names) are case-insensitive. LISTSERV converts everything to upper case before processing.

LISTSERV was written by Eric Thomas ERIC@SEARN.BITNET

*** IMPORTANT!! ***

The most common mistake is that subscribers do not understand the difference between the list (i.e., ECOLOG-L discussion list) address,, and the LISTSERV address, Remember:

- Any message sent to will be distributed to all subscribers. This is the 'bulletin board'. Do NOT send LISTSERV commands (e.g., subscription requests, requests for the job file) to this address.

- Everything sent to will be interpreted as list management commands. LISTSERV will tell you if you make syntax errors.

See #17 below for the basic LISTSERV commands. In the remainder of this guide, the phrase 'send to LISTSERV' will mean: 'send to'

   4.  How do I subscribe to or signoff from ECOLOG-L?
You can subscribe to ECOLOG-L by sending the command (using my own name as an example):

SUB ECOLOG-L David W. Inouye (Univ. of MD)

to LISTSERV. Replace the second part of the command with your own name, and possibly City and State, or institution. This information (40 characters maximum) is literally copied into the list of subscribers, and should help identify you to someone who is examining the list. You can always change this information by signing off and then re-subscribing.

When you subscribe, you do not have to specify your E-mail address; LISTSERV automatically extracts it from the 'From:' line in the header of your E-mail.

If you want to be removed from the list, send the command "signoff ECOLOG- L" or "unsubscribe ECOLOG-L" to LISTSERV; you don't have to include your name or address.

After subscribing, you will receive all messages posted to the list. You can choose to receive daily 'digests' with several messages combined. To choose this option, send "set ECOLOG-L digest" to LISTSERV. Similarly, "set ECOLOG-L index" will give you a daily index of the messages, not the messages themselves. See the LISTSERV documentation (item 17 in this file) for more details.

5.  How and what kind of message can I post?
You can post a message to all subscribers by sending your message to Do NOT send LISTSERV commands to this address. You do not have to be a subscriber to post something. The following material is suitable for posting to ECOLOG-L:

  - Conference announcements
  - Job announcements
  - Public discussions on topics appropriate for this list
  - Calls for help
  - Information of general interest
  - Forwarding of appropriate material from another list
  - Replies to any of the above
If you have any doubts about the suitability of material you want to post, please ask the list owner ( As the number of subscribers has increased, so has the number of messages posted to the list. In fact, the number of messages has increased so much that some people have signed off of the list because they didn't want to have to deal with so much mail. THUS AN EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO KEEP THE TOPICS POSTED TO THE LIST RELEVANT TO THE LIST'S PURPOSE, discussions of interest to professional ecologists (in particular, the membership of the Ecological Society of America).

Some of the subscribers to ECOLOG-L have to pay for each message that is received, and in some cases, the charge is tied to the size of the message. This is particularly true for foreign subscribers (there are people from 40 countries subscribed as of November 1994). Please keep this in mind when you are trying to decide whether to post a message. If it is very long, and only likely to be of interest to a subset of the subscribers, consider sending a shorter message announcing the availability of the material through you. If you are replying to a long message, don't include the whole original message in your own.

One restriction is that postings of a commercial nature are not considered proper use of Bitnet and the academic part of Internet. It is difficult to define exactly what a commercial posting is. Advertising a product is definitely not appropriate, but if a certain product can solve a problem that is being discussed on ECOLOG-L, it makes perfect sense to mention that.

Always sign your postings with your name and E-mail address; some mail systems strip this information out of the header so people may not be able to respond to you unless you provide the address. Most mail software can automatically include a 'signature' file at the end of all outgoing mail. This is important because some subscribers have reported that their mail software does not show them the originator of a posting; they only see "From: ECOLOG-L". Thus the only way they can respond to a message is to send the response to all subscribers via the list, even if the response was only intended for the one person who posted the original message.

Always try to provide a meaningful Subject: line. This helps people who may want to delete a message without reading it, if it pertains to a topic they don't want to follow.

If you reply to a posting, it is up to you to decide whether to do it publicly (to ECOLOG-L) or privately (to the original poster). Private replies are often suitable for a 'call for help', but if the topic is of general interest, public replies are encouraged. Some very good public discussions have been started that way. If you receive private replies to a posting, it is common practice to make a summary of all replies and post it to the list, or at least announce its availability. That way, everybody can benefit without getting a mailbox overload. It is also the easiest way to say thanks to those who replied. Be aware that your reply to a question may end up in a public summary. Of course you can ask the addressee to keep the material confidential, or anonymous, and such a request should be respected.

If you use the 'reply' function of your mail software to write a reply to a posting, the message may go back to the list (all subscribers) rather than just to the original poster (depending on how your local mail system works it may go to the list, or to the person who posted the original message). If you forward a message from ECOLOG-L to someone, and they use the 'reply' function to respond to the forwarded message, their response may also go back to ECOLOG-L. This has sometimes caused some amusing mail from the list, to the embarrasment of the originators (I know from personal experience!)

. Public discussions by E-mail can be affected by the speed of the replies, if participants don't take enough time for thoughtful responses. This can be avoided by not sending a reply immediately. Instead, use an editor to compose your message. Read it again later, maybe on the next day, and then send it. That will prevent errors caused by haste, and also allows others to react, before the entire discussion is over. Posting to the list really is a form of publication, and there are probably more actual readers of a given post than most of us have for single journal articles. Furthermore, all of the mail is archived (at at least two sites) for public perusal by anyone with Internet access.

To eliminate the second message you get acknowledging a message you have sent to the list, send the message "set ECOLOG-L noack" to the listserver.

Please do not send compressed or encoded messages to the list. There are a variety of compression or encoding schemes, and none are used universally. If you have a long file to post, see the suggestions above.

  6.  Why was my subscription cancelled?
If there is a problem with your e-mail address or your node on the BITNET or Internet the list owner gets back an error message each time the listserver tries to forward a copy of a message to you. Sometimes this results in hundreds of error messages a day. If I get error messages about your account for more than a day or two, I will cancel the subscription. A copy of the cancellation notice will be sent to your address, but you may not receive it if there is a problem with your address. Please don't write back to the list to ask why your subscription was cancelled! Contact me directly (, or just resubscribe when your mail address is working again.

  7.  How do I get a list of all subscribers?
Send the command "review ECOLOG-L" to LISTSERV, and you will receive the list. If you would prefer the list sorted by subscriber name rather than subscriber address, send the command "review ECOLOG-L (by name". The final part of the address is either a country code (for example: .CA for Canada, .NL for Netherlands), or inside the USA, one of the following: .EDU (educational institutions), .GOV (government), .MIL (military), .COM (commercial), or .ORG (organizations).

  7.  What should I do when my e-mail address changes?
You should send the message "signoff ECOLOG-L" from your old address, and subscribe again from your new address. If this is not possible for some reason, contact the list owner for help; please do this with a private message (to rather than a request sent to the list address (ECOLOG-L)

It can happen that your 'From:' address changes, while all mail to the old address still reaches you. You won't notice anything, until you get an error message from LISTSERV saying that you are not recognized as a subscriber. This is a common problem for sites that used to have only a BITNET address, and are changing over to Internet. The proper procedure is that your system administrator (or postmaster) informs BITNET about the new Internet address of the node. The Internet address is then entered as an 'alias' into the BITNET node lists, and LISTSERV will recognize you again. Sometimes, system administrators forget to do this. If this cannot be solved by your system administrator or postmaster, ask the ECOLOG-L list owner to delete your subscription (you cannot do that, because you can't send mail from your old address) and you can subscribe again from your new address.

LISTSERV can give you some information about BITNET nodes. For example: to find out the Internet alias (if any) for a node, and the name of the system administrator, send the following two commands to LISTSERV:


Every computer system has a person who is responsible for E-mail and networking, and you can reach that person by sending mail to POSTMASTER at your local node. On a VAX, this person may have the username SYSTEM.

  9.  What to do if I am away for an extended period of time
      (vacation, field work, sabbatical leave)?
It depends on how long you will be absent. The easiest thing is to do nothing, and mail from ECOLOG-L will accumulate in your mailbox. For longer periods, this may cause a full mailbox ('disk quota overflow') or similar problems (which then generate error messages sent back to the list owner). Also, you may not want to read a lot of old mail after returning. You can temporarily stop ECOLOG-L mail by sending the command "set ECOLOG-L nomail" to LISTSERV. After returning, you can re-activate the mail by sending the command "set ECOLOG-l mail" to LISTSERV. You can also signoff of the list for the time you will be gone, by sending the message "signoff ECOLOG-L" to the listserver address ( You can then resubscribe when you return, by sending the message "sub ECOLOG-L Your Name".

If you want to use the 'vacation' feature of your mail software, which automatically sends a reply such as "I am on vacation" to all incoming mail, please do a "set nomail ECOLOG-L". Otherwise your auto-reply message will be distributed to all subscribers.

  10. How can I get files that are stored on the listserver (weekly
      archives, job file, FAQ list, etc.)?
All postings are saved by LISTSERV in the weekly archive files. You can get copies of the monthly archives by sending, for example:

get ECOLOG-L log9311A

to LISTSERV to get the archive for the first week of November 1993. Substitute B for A to get the second week, C for A to get the third week, or D for A to get the last week of the month.

The EcoGopher server (see item 14 in this file) at Virginia provides access to the individual messages in the archives of ECOLOG-L. Messages can be read, and also transferred to your own computer, and there is a search feature available.

LISTSERV can be used to search for keywords occurring anywhere in the messages. Example: send the following E-mail message to LISTSERV:

  // JOB Echo=No
  Database Search DD=Rules
  //Rules DD *
  search for Model in ECOLOG-L
Which produces the following output:

--> search for modelling in ECOLOG-L
--> Database ECOLOG-L, 82 hits.
--> index

 Item #   Date   Time  Recs   Subject
 ------   ----   ----  ----   -------
 000209 92/05/08 16:05   36   Mac programs
 000235 92/05/21 15:27   28   Stella for ecological modelling
 000236 92/05/21 12:24   42   Re: Stella for ecological modelling
 000244 92/05/22 13:26   72   Re: Modelling
 000246 92/05/22 15:05   74   Stella/Ecological modelling
 000254 92/05/26 16:00   33   Re: Modelling
 000401 92/08/28 17:16   29   Watershed modelling position
 000777 92/11/01 10:35   46   Re: Statistics (and modelling in general)
Subsequently, you can ask LISTSERV to send you the items you want. Full documentation about these features can be obtained by sending the message GET LISTDB MEMO to LISTSERV. Of course, you can also simply request the relevant LOG files. For instance, item #777 (the last one shown) will be found in the file ECOLOG-L LOG9211A.

Various other files are stored in the ECOLOG-L file area, such as:

1) a compilation of recent job advertisements
2) this FAQ list;
3) notices of grant opportunities (if there are any announced on the list).

To get a copy of the JOBS file list, send the message "get jobs job_lst ecolog-l" to the listserver address ( I update this list about every 3-4 weeks, by adding copies of job advertisements that have been posted to ECOLOG-L since the last update, and deleting expired listings.

To get the GRANTS file (which may or may not have anything in it), send the message "get grants grants ECOLOG-L".

To have copies of files sent automatically when they are updated, send the message "AFD ADD ECOLOG-L" to the listserver. For example, for automatic copies of the updated jobs file, send the message "AFD ADD JOBS JOB_LST ECOLOG-L". (AFD = automatic file distribution)

To take yourself off this AFD list, send the message "AFD DEL JOBS JOB_LST ECOLOG-L".

To receive notification, but not the file, when it is updated, send the message "FUI ADD ECOLOG-L". To stop notification, send the message "FUI DEL ECOLOG-L".

  11.  Where can I get more information about LISTSERV?
Like most 'E-mail answering programs', LISTSERV responds to the simple request:

HELP That should get you started on your search for knowledge. For example, you will find out that a LISTSERV users manual can be obtained by sending the request "SEND LISTSERV MEMO". This file provides a detailed description of most of the LISTSERV command language. There are other documentation files. Use the command "SEND LISTSERV FILELIST" to see what is available. You will also find more FILELISTs, which are like subdirectories. For example, ECOLOG-L FILELIST is a subdirectory of LISTSERV FILELIST. All files available from LISTSERV are listed in FILELIST's, and the filenames have the form FILENAME FILETYPE (with a space in between). This is a feature of the IBM VM/CMS system on which LISTSERV is implemented.

TSERV, which can be used to search the archives for keywords.

A LISTSERV Overview and General User Command Summary (aka LISTSERV Users Guide) is available electronically from:


in plain text and Postscript format.

To get the LISTSERV Overview and General User Command Summary, send the command:

       GET LSVGUIDE MEMO        (plain text)
       GET LSVGUIDE PS          (Postscript)

  12.  Who are the 'list owners', or 'moderators', and what do they do?
Although LISTSERV is reasonably intelligent, it cannot handle every problem. For this reason, ECOLOG-L has a 'list owner'. If LISTSERV does not know what to do, it sends a message to the list owner. If E-mail to a subscriber 'bounces' because of networking or other problems, the error message is also forwarded to the list owner. This is not a trivial job: every posting usually generates between 5 and 10 error messages, but sometimes the number can reach 300/day. When error messages from one subscriber are persistent, the list owner usually tries to find out what happened, and contact the responsible postmasters to correct the problem. If no solution is found, the subscriber's subscription is usually cancelled. After that, no ECOLOG-L mail will go to that subscriber. If you suspect this has happened to you, send the command "query ECOLOG-L" to LISTSERV. If you receive no reply, this means you are unable to receive mail from LISTSERV, and you should ask your system administrator to fix that.

The list owner also acts as a 'moderator' of the bulletin board when necessary. As mentioned in section 4, postings to the list are not restricted or censored. The listowner is more like a 'watchdog', becoming active when the situation warrants it.

These tasks are currently the responsibility of David Inouye (originator of the list) at the University of Maryland (where the listserver is located).

  13.  How can I find the E-mail address of ...?
If the person you wish to contact is working in ecology, there is some chance that he or she subscribes to ECOLOG-L. You can then find the E-mail address in the list of subscribers (see section 5).

For finding other people, Internet has a nice facility that is accessible using TELNET. Bitnet subscribers cannot access this. You can TELNET to Internet node, using username 'netfind' (or, or You then automatically enter a program that can do a keyword search for persons all over the world. If you are in Europe, or more important, are looking for someone in Europe, you may get faster response from the 'netfind' server at sun.uakom.cs (Czech and Slovak Federal Republic). Netfind will inform you about alternative sites on other continents.

This useful resource is also available via, for example, the Colorado State University Gopher Server (the hierarchy is as follows):

         Colorado State University (Fort Collins)
           Off-campus Information & Services
             Phone Bks - On-Line Phone Books at Other Institutions

  14.  What is Usenet/NETNEWS, and how do I use it?  
Usenet is a 'news service' available on the Internet. How to connect depends on your computer system. On UNIX systems, many people use the programs 'rn' (readnews) or 'tin'. Ask your local computer experts about it. You may also want to see the material on Usenet in Una Smith's "A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources" (see below).

  15. How to get A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources
The current version of the free 40-page Guide can be obtained over the Internet via Usenet, gopher, anonymous FTP and e-mail:

How to Get A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources

The free, 40-page Guide contains an overview and lists of free Internet resources such as: scientific discussion groups, including newsgroups and mailing lists; research newsletters, directories, and bibliographies; the major biological data and software archives; tools for finding and retrieving information; answers to some frequently asked questions; and a bibliography of useful books and Internet documents.

The Guide is available in several versions. The most recent complete release is Version 1.7, dated November 1993. It is available as a plain ASCII file for easy retrieval and printing of the entire document, as a menu for reading online (via both gopher and WWW), and in an attractive PostScript format (for laser printing). There is a French translation. The most recent release (about mailing lists only) is Version 1.8a, dated December 1994: this amends but does not supercede Version 1.7.

The Guide is available on the Internet, and can be obtained via gopher, anonymous FTP, and e-mail.

-*- Gopher:  Go to, and choose this sequence of menu items:

                Worlds of SunSITE -- by Subject
                        Ecology and Evolution
                                A Biologist's Guide...
Or, from any gopher offering other biology gophers by subject, look for the menu item "Ecology and Evolution". Here is the direct link information:

                Name=A Biologist's Guide (in a choice of formats)
                Port=70 offers public telnet access to their gopher client (and Wais and hypertext clients as well!), if you don't have your own. Telnet to and read the instructions before the login prompt.

-*- Anonymous FTP: Connect to Give the username "anonymous" and your e-mail address as the password. Use the "cd" command to go to the directory


and use "get bioguide.faq" to copy the ASCII version of the Guide to your computer. Use "get" for the PostScript version, or see the README file for more information.

-*- E-mail: Send the text:

                cd pub/academic/biology/ecology+evolution/bioguide
                get bioguide.faq
                get README
You will receive the Guide in several parts: save each part separately, use a text editor to delete the e-mail headers and trailers of each, and merge them. You will also receive the README file from the same directory as the Guide, and a help file for using the ftpmail service. Use "quit" to prevent the ftpmail server from trying to interpret your signature as an instruction. For help using the ftpmail server, use "help" (you will be sent e-mail containing many helpful tips).

-*- Usenet: When they come out, new versions of the Guide are posted to several Usenet newsgroups. Look in

  16.  What are Gopher, Archie, WAIS, WWW, etc?
These programs are interactive tools for accessing information through the Internet. An incredible amount of information has already been made accessible, and more will follow. More information about these tools can be obtained by sending


to LISTSERV@EARNCC.BITNET. Gopher is user-friendly and menu-driven; documentation is not really necessary. If you just type 'gopher', you start at your local 'gopher hole', from where you can dig 'tunnels' to all other gophers in the world. The menus explain everything. You can also start directly at a remote gopher. Examples:


or gopher

This connects you to a gopher at Johns Hopkins University, with (mostly) information about computational biology and very interesting connections to other gopher servers at NIH, NSF etc.

  17.  Summary of Listserv commands.

Command String               Action                           See Section #
-------------------------    ---------

Sub ECOLOG-L  Jane Doe      subscribes to the list                     3
Signoff ECOLOG-L            ends subscription to the list              3
Unsubscribe ECOLOG-L        ends subscription to the list              3

Review ECOLOG-L             receive list of subscribers by address     6
Review ECOLOG-L (by name    receive list of subscribers  by name       6

Set ECOLOG-L Index          receive only index of messages             3
Set ECOLOG-L Digest         receive daily groups of messages           3

Set ECOLOG-L  nomail        turns mail off                             8
Set ECOLOG-L  mail          turns mail on or replaces digest option    8

Set ECOLOG-L  repro         receive copies of postings you send
Set ECOLOG-L  norepro       suppress copies of postings you send

Get ECOLOG-L  log9311A      get weekly archive from 1st week Nov 93    9

Query ECOLOG-L              display your current option settings

  18. How to contact House of Representatives
This is the initial posting from the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives, chaired by the Honorable George Brown of California. We have agreed to serve as the "beta" testers for House Committees trying to learn how to use the Internet. We posted this message to some of the USENET newsgroups that discuss topics relevant to our jurisdiction over Federal civilian research and development activities to:

(1) Increase the number of people who know we do have Internet access;

(2) Indicate how we can be reached on the net; and

(3) Start learning how to take advantage of this information system in our daily activities.

Getting the Congress to use Internet has been discussed in a few threads on various USENET newsgroups of late. Some of you may be familiar with the E-Mail Pilot Project established by the Committee on House Administration, chaired by the Honorable Charlie Rose of North Carolina. Those Members of the House currently maintaining an electronic mailbox for constituent communications may be found by e-mailing " with the text "HELP" or "INFO" in the message body. You will receive an automated response with the necessary instructions.

Also, the text of legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives during the current Congress is now available on a W.A.I.S server located at the House Information Systems data center. The server may be accessed from the directory at or using the following information:

     Server:        diamond
     Port:          210
     Database Name: USHOUSE_house_bill_text_103rd
It can also be found on in: Congressional Information/Legislative Resources

The database contains the text of House bills beginning with October 1993 and is updated daily.

What follows now is the message you will automatically receive in response to messages sent to, the Committee's Internet address. It describes items like the Committee's gopher server, which you can also find at
[Send a message to that address to get the response]

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