2008/07/18 12:00 UW Madison, Botany Department: Tim Allen's Sandpit: Megan Pease, Peter Allen, Devin Wixon, Steve Thomforde

ISSS Madison 2008, 52nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the ISSS web site by David Ing.

Tim Allen

  • Since we're here in Madison

[Megan Pease:  Inside the Black Box of Time Allen's lab]

What the same when everything is different?

We all apply systems theories

  • Conversations at many scales
  • Sandbox, get together with many people
  • Conferences
  • Find problems / paradigm changes

Lots of personal relationships

  • Some intellectual vulnerability, try out new ideas an applications

Each have found an interesting phenomenon

  • Also some urgency
  • Numerous variable
  • Lots of perspectives

Common themes

  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Before you take tools out of other contexts, need to be aware of underlying assumptions
  • Have to identify the role of the observer

Own research question:

  • How can UPS design flexibility into their system, allowing adaptation to a changing context?  Investigation of alternative fuels
  • Found multiple replacement options

[Steve Thomforde] 

A Systems Perspective on Restoring Ecological Resilience:  A Proposal to Shift the Current Historic Climax - Community Restoration Model to a Future Oriented Ecosystem Based Model

In 2 weeks, going to North American Prairie Conference

Beside parking lot, supposed to be an infiltration basin, to take in rain

  • Rain takes soil particles with phosphorous, into Lake Mendoza, destroys algae
  • Infiltration basin is supposed to soak it into ground, but it's failing
  • 40% sand, 40% compost, 20% dirt
  • Sorts water, creates positive feedback, creates likes in sealable forms
  • More plants create more detritus, seals a system, until we have a pond
  • The pond fills up

People from State of Wisconsin asking:  what are we going to do?

  • Have 90 projects with infiltration basins, including mayor's house
  • $31,000
  • Sustainable for how long, and how much?
  • Had plant people (want a wetland) and engineers (want sucking it)
  • Systems approach:  want more sand, because we want to increase an ecosystem function
  • Can't grow plants?  Grow a beach community
  • The new design:  will come in with 80% sand, 10% loams, 10% dirt

[Peter Allen]

Master's student, finishing up research

High gain and low gain systems, related to transportation infrastructre, and how it impacts community development

Looking of pre-WWII low gain system

  • To increase gain, needed a lot of reorganization
  • Railroad
  • Interstate system after cheap oil

Animated map

  • Wisconsin has lots of resources, used to built Chicago, plus the agricultural as prairie converted to farms
  • Rail lines on lines, versus smaller roads in a network, emergent into interstate system

Rail into town means a stop into town

  • Interstate, bypass towns

Looking at Evansville, was on railroad, had own opera house, tiny town at turn of century

  • When interstate went through, they weren't on it
  • Starting to return now
  • Low gain before WWII, transition to high gain economy, now coming back
  • Evansville is on the rise again, it has the only soybean crushing plant, because it still has the railroad
  • Low gain imposes itself as top down, as only infrastructure
  • As we're moving from high gain to low gain, need to find an emergent infrastructure that isn't totally top-down in transition

[Devin Wixon]

What's the same when everything is different?

People working on bigger, theoretical, epistemological issues

It's because don't know what people are talking about, that the system succeeds

On the same level of anarchy

  • Recalcitrant carbon in soil

Energy ROI:  what you spend ...

  • Labile / active soil
  • Recalcitrant / passive soil:  95%
  • Global warming means microbes switching
  • It won't help putting carbon into soil, if microbes put it back out

Can we create useful narratives, related to high and low gain

12 hypotheses related to high and low gain (Tainter et al. 2003, Allen et al 2001)

Presentation in lab

  • High gain system will self-repair, but low gain system will manage by manipulating part
  • Can perturb high gain systems, but low gain systems will be more sensitive to perturbations

[Tim:  also undergraduate students]

Ed Eglar

  • Don't like writing papers, could have a course that fulfills a science requirement
  • Found gives a language to understand and express things that couldn't express before
  • Undergraduates change:  thinking processes changed, get to ask more important questions
  • Lunches every Tuesday
  • Military background, gives input into academics
  • Have a new way of thinking