In many areas of ecology there is an increasing emphasis on spatial relationships. Often ecologists are interested in new ways of analyzing data with the objective of quantifying spatial patterns, and in designing surveys and experiments in light of the recognition that there may be underlying spatial pattern in biotic responses. In doing so, ecologists have adopted a number of widely different techniques and approaches derived from different schools of thought, and from other scientific disciplines. While the adaptation of a diverse array of statistical approaches and methodologies for the analysis of spatial data has yielded considerable insight into various ecological problems, this diversity of approaches has sometimes impeded communication and retarded more rapid progress in this emergent area. Many of these different statistical methods provide similar information about spatial characteristics, but the differences among these methods make it difficult to compare the results of studies that employ contrasting approaches. The papers in this mini-series explore possible areas of agreement and synthesis between a diversity of approaches to spatial analysis in ecology.