In support of worldwide MPE2013 efforts, NSF’s Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) at Ohio State University is hosting three autumn workshops aimed at the interface of mathematics and the science of sustainability. People interested in attending are welcome to apply here.
- Sustainability and Complex Systems (September 16-20, 2013)
Creating usable models for the sustainability of ecosystems has many mathematical challenges. Ecosystems are complex because they involve multiple interactions among organisms and between organisms and the physical environment, at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and with multiple feedback loops making connections between and across scales. The issue of scaling and deriving models at one scale from another is well known to lead to substantial mathematical issues, as in going from descriptions of stochastic spatial movement at the population scale from the individual scale and as in getting diffusion limits. Here, for example, recent work has focused on alternatives to the diffusion limit. The mathematical challenges in the analysis of full ecosystems are truly great.
This workshop aims to engage empiricists, computational and mathematical modelers, and mathematicians in a dialogue about how to best address the problems raised by the pressing need to understand complex ecological interactions at many scales. Its ultimate goal is to initiate transformative research that will provide new approaches and techniques, and perhaps new paradigms, for modeling complex systems and for connecting different types of models operating at different levels of detail. An important feature of the workshop will be afternoon sessions devoted to case studies with the goal of starting new collaborations and new research directions.
- Rapid Evolution and Sustainability (October 7-11, 2013)
Although evolution is often thought of as a slow process that proceeds on the time scale of millennia, in fact there are many very rapid evolutionary processes, often called contemporary evolution, that have profound effects on human health and welfare. Understanding the dynamic behavior of such processes is difficult because one is typically studying the co-evolution of two or more interacting complex systems. Whether the context is giving or not giving drugs, choosing to use or not use pesticides, or choosing when to use them, these are choices that have political, ethical and economic consequences. The consequences themselves depend in many cases on changing human cultural behavior, changing technology, and climate change. Mathematical modeling, including the invention of new mathematical structures, can help us understand these rapidly co-evolving systems and thus make clear the likely consequences of various policy choices.
- Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources (November 4-8, 2013)
Natural resources, such as forests, fish, land, and biodiversity, while renewable, are being pushed to the brink and beyond by sectorial mismanagement and the resulting cumulative impacts on the macroscopic environmental and ecosystem conditions. For many, the solution is to take a more holistic or ecosystem-based approach to management (EBM). Mathematical models for EBM need to take into account both the dynamics of coupled ecological and economic systems and the game theoretic issues arising from the differing interests and values of different stakeholders. Some mathematical approaches to those issues have been developed in both ecology and economics.
An important goal of the mathematical modeling is to analyze the likely consequences of policy choices proposed by Congress, government agencies, or eco-system managers. These choices will have important consequences not only for ecological systems, but also for the health and economic well being of human communities. Therefore, this workshop will have a public policy component, and at least two afternoons will be devoted to case studies which will develop new research directions.