The Hidden Order of Complex Ecosystems
2015 Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lecture Series - The Web of Life and the Ecological Human
Dunne shares surprising findings from her research of food webs, the networks of who eats whom in nature. After revealing hidden ecological order, she explores the underlying forces that constrain and organize ecosystems across hundreds of millions of years, from the explosion of biodiversity in the deep-time Cambrian period, long before the dinosaurs, to the deteriorating condition of ecosystems in the present day. She then describes characteristics that can fortify ecosystems against species loss and environmental change.
Traditionally, most ecological research has studied ecosystems as separate from humans. In her second lecture, Dunne shows how humans fit into and impact ecosystems through their myriad interactions with other species. She then explores how the science of ecological networks can help meet the pressing need to understand the roles of humans in ecosystems, particularly in terms of resource use and consumption. With examples from pre-industrial hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies, she will explore potential lessons for modern humans in fostering a more sustainable future.
Jennifer Dunne is the vice president for science at the Santa Fe Institute. Her research interests are in analysis, modeling, and theory related to the organization, dynamics, and stability of ecosystems that include humans.
SFI’s Community Lecture series is generously sponsored by Thornburg Investment Management