Discovery and integration of data is important in many ecological studies, especially those that concern broad-scale ecological questions. Data discovery and integration are often difficult and time consuming tasks for researchers, which is due in part to the use of informal, ambiguous, and sometimes inconsistent terms for describing data content. Ontologies offer a solution to this problem by providing consistent definitions of ecological concepts that in turn can be used to annotate, relate, and search for data sets. However, unlike in molecular biology or biomedicine, few ontology development efforts exist within ecology. Ontology development often requires considerable expertise in ontology languages and development tools, which is often a barrier for ontology creation in ecology. In this paper we describe an approach for ontology creation that allows ecologists to use common spreadsheet tools to describe different aspects of an ontology. We present conventions for creating, relating, and constraining concepts through spreadsheets, and provide software tools for converting these ontologies into equivalent OWL-DL representations. We also consider inverse translations, i.e., to convert ontologies represented using OWL-DL into our spreadsheet format. Our approach allows large lists of terms to be easily related and organized into concept hierarchies, and generally provides a more intuitive and natural interface for ontology development by ecologists.