Fundamental questions in basic and applied ecology alike involve complex adaptive systems, in which localized interactions among individual agents give rise to emergent patterns that feed back to affect individual behavior. In such systems, a central challenge is to scale from the "microscopic" to the "macroscopic", in order to understand the emergence of collective phenomena, the potential for critical transitions, and the ecological and evolutionary conflicts between levels of organization. This lecture will explore some specific examples, from universality in bacterial pattern formation to collective motion and collective decision-making in animal groups. It also will suggest that studies of emergence, scaling and critical transitions in physical systems can inform the analysis of similar phenomena in ecological systems, while raising new challenges for theory.
Professor Levin received his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Maryland. At Cornell University 1965-1992 , he was Chair of the Section of Ecology and Systematics, and then Director of the Ecosystems Research Center, the Center for Environmental Research and the Program on Theoretical and Computational Biology, as well as Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences (1985-1992). Since 1992, he has been at Princeton University, where he is currently George M. Moffett Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for BioComplexity. He retains an Adjunct Professorship at Cornell.
His research interests are in understanding how macroscopic patterns and processes are maintained at the level of ecosystems and the biosphere, in terms of ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that operate primarily at the level of organisms; in infectious diseases; and in the interface between basic and applied ecology.
Simon Levin visits Australia for the first in the Maths of Planet Earth Simons Public Lecture Series. http://mathsofplanetearth.org.au/events/simons/