Intertidal region, Aleutian Islands

The time-honored eating habits of native Alaskans helped to stabilize the food webs they depended on, explains computational ecologist and SFI Professor Jennifer Dunne in a recent interview on Santa Fe public radio station KSFR.

Listen to the interview (25 minutes, June 7, 2011)

In studying the tribal society that lived on the Aleutian archipelago, Dunne found that the Aleut classified as "supergeneralists" -- they ate more kinds of species than any other predator of the intertidal zone. They were also strong omnivores, incorporating into their diet everything from algae, shellfish, and fishes, and right up to seals and other marine mammals at the top of their trophic levels.

Such demands could compromise a food web. But by focusing on a few species at a time -- relying on salmon, bird eggs, and intertidal life seasonally, when each was plentiful -- the Aleut lived sustainably on the archipelago for 5000 years.

In the podcast, Dunne explores the implications for modern systems, and how natural ecosystem structures clash with modern "supply and demand" economies.

Listen to the interview (25 minutes, June 7, 2011)