Biocomplexity Breakout Session III

Questions for consideration:
  • Exploring the convergence of biocomplexity and Earth System Science.
  • How do we make connections with life and Earth?
  • How can we integrate these into our instructional activites?

What are the essential components of Biocomplexity?

Convergence of Earth System Science and Biocomplexity

Is earth system science (ESS) the same as biocomplexity?
Biocomplexity is not a new paradigm (semantics).
Biocomplexity is a subset of ESS but focuses on components thus far left out by ESS.
  • Human participation
  • Levels of biological interaction, organization and evolution
  • Bio-centered interactions
Biocomplexity is a manifestation of earth system science.
Biocomplexity research should use ESS concepts as a starting point, but emphasize those components left out by ESS as practiced.

Exemplary topics

  1. Cultural eutrophication
    • Local bodies of water
  2. Snowball earth
    • Plate tectonics
    • Climate
    • Carbon cycle
  3. Field trips
    • Local geology
    • Vegetation
    • Climate relationships
  4. Great plains
    • Drought/hydrology
    • Climate change
  5. El Nino
    • Geology
    • Climate/atmosphere/hydrosphere
    • Urban expansion
    • Early humans
    • Expansion of Denver and cultural response to drought years
  6. Bioprospecting
  7. Recreation/ski areas
    • Geology
    • Climate
    • Vegetation
    • Cloud seeding
    • Land use/ land clearing
  8. Fire ecology
    • Geology and soils
    • Hydrology
    • Biology
    • Human safety and property issues
Unresolved issues
  • Textbook!
  • Emphasis on human-natural science coupling
  • Non-linearity/inter-relatedness of systems

Specific Examples

  • Place-based or Case Study
  • For example, Hawaii, Yellowstone, your campus
    • Island biogeography
    • Human interaction
    • Change over time
    • Evolution


  • Disease
  • New Hawaiian island
  • A dam

Another example: salmon

  • Factors include
    • Dam building
    • Salmon migration
    • Historical practices
    • Cultural significance
    • Economic impacts
    • Religious traditions
  • How?
    • Power of symbolism, e.g. salmon, glowing fish
    • The process of how we ask question is important

Strategies for Implementing Biocomplexity

  1. Modeling and illustrating feedback loops
  2. Journals
  3. Photo project
  4. Field trips
  5. Projects involving problem solving (field problems, lab, reflection, modeling)
  6. Web discussion threads (Web-CT)
  7. Nurture open-ended format in seminar courses
  8. Cooperative learning: pair students with different backgrounds
  9. Critical evaluation of newspaper articles
  10. Solve a "mystery" pattern in the field
  11. Story telling
  12. Active learning
  13. Text book problems