Special Topics in Env. Earth Sci: Complex Environmental Systems (ENVS 6730)

Code and section: ENVS 6730*02

Term: Fall

Instructor: Genevieve Ali



While systems are typically defined as a collection of “things” that serve a purpose, complex systems need to be handled differently. Complex systems are systems with multiple components that are interacting with, learning from and adapting to their neighboring components and environments in a nonlinear fashion, thereby leading to emergent behaviours that are difficult to predict. In environmental sciences, many problems can be better understood using complex-system approaches, including problems related to climate change, the functioning of insect colonies, fish and bird migration, soil, water and vegetation dynamics, the response of ecosystems to natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and socio-ecological sustainability. This course is designed as an inter-disciplinary introduction to systems thinking, complex system characteristics, rule-based modelling and environmental scenario analysis. Learning objectives will be achieved through a combination of lectures, critical readings, hands-on modelling exercises and oral presentations.