Anthropology | Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Seminar
E600 | 0420 | Moran


The destruction or transformation of habitat is probably the
greatest current threat to biodiversity. Ecologists and
social scientists have been addressing issues related to the
destruction of habitat, but they have been approaching these
issues by addressing very different questions and by using
dissimilar methods and models. Despite the differences in
research traditions, developments in both of these broad
fields have reached a stage where intensive interactions are
now possible. The course will explore the development of
spatially explicit theory in ecology over the last 20 years
that has shown the importance of spatial heterogeneity in
biophysical environment in the dispersion patterns of
organisms. Spatially-explicit population models in ecology,
too, will be reviewed and compared to other tyypes of
population models in ecology. On their part, social
scientists have been developing capabilities in collecting
spatially-explicit information on human populations and tying
this information to land use and land cover change models,
using remotely sensed data. Social science analyses have been
concerned with examining hypotheses about the proximate
social and economic determinants of changes in land use and
land cover, including the destruction and fragmentation of
habitat. However, this work has not included the use of
non-linear mathematical approaches. The course will explore
the fundamentals of complexity theory, nonlinear dynamics,
and population dynamics that speak to issues of how to
address biodiversity research within a biocomplexity
framework. The course will be in seminar format or workshop
format, where all participants, faculty and students alike,
learn from each other through a common study approach. We
will seek to identify common spatial and temporal scales ,
and to develop a preliminary dynamic model characterized by
nonlinear dynamics. Modeling projects will look at both
anthropogenic changes in habitat, and those caused by climate
and other non-human dynamics. During the course a major
international workshop will be held on campus on the subject
of the seminar, supported by the National Science Foundation,
in which the participants will be closely involved. A major
grant proposal to NSF will be drafted during the conference,
and we hope some of the class participants may wish to pursue
research along these lines should the grant be funded.

Readings:
Simon Levin, Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons 1999
Brian Maurer, Untangling Ecological Complexity: the
Macroscopic Perspective 1998
Brian Maurer, Geographical Population Analysis: Tools for the
Analysis of Biodiversity 1994
and a modeling book, still to be decidided

Requirements: there are no prerequisites, other than graduate
status and a background in either bioecology, or
environmental social sciences.

Class format:  workshop-style discussion of readings; model
design and specification, with simulation runs; discussion of
research papers