Theoretical Ecology Webinar

We operate an international seminar series on Theoretical Ecology via Zoom since September, 2020. With some exceptions, the hour-long events are held on every other Tuesday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, which corresponds to 5 p.m. in London and 6 p.m. in Paris most of the time. Our invited lecturer speaks for cc. 20-30 minutes. The rest of the hour is for questions and discussions, which are often lively. The seminars are recorded and posted on our YouTube channel. We send out notifications before each lecture via email and Twitter. The webinar is organised by György Barabás (, Géza Meszéna ( and Chris Terry ( Any comment, or suggestion are welcome.

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Scheduled lectures

Simon Levin (Princeton): Ecosystems and the Biosphere as Complex Adaptive Systems:
Scaling, collective phenomena and governance

20 June, 2023

Phil Anderson, in a landmark essay, highlighted the challenges in understanding the emergent properties of what were later termed “complex adaptive systems,” and the need to go beyond reductionistic approaches, themes later echoed in another brilliant essay, by Francois Jacob, approaching the challenge through a very different lens.  No problem facing us better exemplifies these issues than that of achieving a sustainable future for humanity.

The continual increase in the human population, magnified by increasing per capita demands on Earth’s limited resources, raise the urgent mandate of understanding the degree to which these patterns are sustainable. The scientific challenges posed by this simply stated goal are enormous, and cross disciplines.  What measures of human welfare should be at the core of definitions of sustainability, and how do we discount the future and deal with problems of intra-generational and inter-generational equity?  How do environmental and socioeconomic systems become organized as complex adaptive systems, and what are the implications for dealing with public goods at scales from the local to the global?  How does the increasing interconnectedness of coupled natural and human systems affect the robustness of aspects of importance to us, and what are the implications for management.  What is the role of social norms, and how do we achieve cooperation at the global level?  All of these issues have parallels in evolutionary biology, and this lecture will explore what lessons can be learned from ecology and evolutionary theory for addressing the problems posed by achieving a sustainable future.