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Life has a hidden order. In a series of two lectures, ecologist Jennifer Dunne reveals surprising characteristics shared by ecosystems in radically different environments, comprising different species, and across time. By highlighting patterns in the architecture of how species, including humans, interact, she suggests new ways to understand the sustainability of ecosystems past, present, and future.

SFI's annual Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lecture Series honors the memory of the late theoretical mathematician Stanislaw Ulam.

Lecture I (watch the video): The hidden order of complex ecosystems -- 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. Watch the video (45 minutes).

Lecture II (watch the video): The ecological human -- 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 preindustrial hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies, she will explore potential lessons for modern humans in fostering a more sustainable future. Watch the video (45 minutes).

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 2015 Community Lectures are made possible through the generous support of Thornburg Investment Management. 

For a listing of all upcoming SFI community events, visit here.

Read the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican (September 15, 2015)