12.517 | Spring 2000 | Graduate

Dynamics of Complex Systems: Complexity in Ecology


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Dynamics of Complex Systems is an introduction to theoretical studies of systems of many interacting components, the individual dynamics of which may be simple, but the collective dynamics of which are often nonlinear and analytically intractable. The topic for this class is Complexity in Ecology.

Fundamental problems in the field of complex systems focus on the importance of interactions and adaptations in a hierarchy of length and time scales. Ecology presents a series of canonical problems in which these features play a prominent role; the relation of biodiversity to ecosystem stability and the impact of environmental fluctuations on speciation and extinction are but two examples.

In this class we will critically examine recent literature in the field by holding twice-weekly roundtable discussions. The emphasis will be on developing quantitative theories in the context of experimental and observational data. No background in ecology will be presumed.


Students are expected to come to each class prepared to discuss the readings. At the culmination of the course, students present recent papers in the subject to their classmates.


Grading for this course is based 100% on class participation and presentations.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2000