Welcome from the WICI Director
I am delighted to have been asked to continue serving as Waterloo Institute for Complexity & Innovation (WICI) Director for 2017-2018. I am an ecologist working in many areas of ecological modelling and analysis. I am also a poet and incorporate complex systems ideas into my creative work.
I have been interested in complex systems since the time of my doctoral work (Western University, 1997), where I worked on developing new measures of ecological complexity and theoretical modelling of chaotic dynamics of ecosystems. My postdoctoral work included visits to various centres of complex systems science including the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste and the biocomplexity group at University of New Mexico, where I gained an appreciation for international research. During my tenure as Canada Research Chairs in Biocomplexity of the Environment I continued to develop new measures and models of complex ecological dynamics, but began to develop a greater interest in the human dimensions of ecology.
On the empirical side, my studies largely focused on human impacts on the environment, for example, the effects of past pollution on the industrially damaged forests surrounding Sudbury, Ontario and the success of restoration efforts, and, more recently on terrestrial ecosystem responses to climate change. With the uptake of my second Canada Research Chair in Global Ecological Change at the University of Guelph, I initiated several collaborative projects, largely in Brazil and China. I have learned that ecological indicators of ‘damage’ and ‘success’ are essential, but can only take us so far in adaptive management of threatened landscapes. In November 2010 I participated in an inspirational Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) workshop (Rutgers, New Jersey) on the ‘mathematics of sustainability’ where participants were not only asked to refine definitions of human-environment complex systems but also articulate gaps in knowledge. And there were many. We wrote a white paper on “human-environmental systems as complex adaptive systems” which was presented to the National Science Foundation (NSF). This inspired initiation of several research projects during my sabbatical at Princeton University (2011) which have led to new directions in modelling coupled-human-environment systems. In 2012 I received the James S. McDonnell Complex Systems Scholar award. I am currently full professor and university research chair in sustainability science at the University of Guelph. My debut collection of poems "A New Index for Catastrophes," which touches on several complex system theory topics, was published to international acclaim in April 2015 by McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House Canada.
Complex systems research is essential, exciting, far-reaching and important for solving our most pressing problems, local and global. I am very excited to have this opportunity to get to know the research communities associated with WICI and to extend these interests across the borders of disciplines, institutions and to the broader public. Please join our mailing list (subscription box at the bottom) if you want to hear more about WICI’s events and work.
Dr. Madhur Anand