Questions like these are not simple to answer. To address them, the National Science Foundation in 1999 launched a major research effort aptly called "Biocomplexity in the Environment."
On Saturday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to noon at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle, an expert panel will describe results from six NSF- supported biocomplexity projects that focus on the interplay between human and natural systems. Along with describing efforts involving the pandas, poverty traps and logging parallels, the panel (subtitled "Reciprocal Interactions") will profile the linkages between urban development and bird habitat around Puget Sound; between Polynesian culture and Hawaiian ecology; and between shoreline development, recreational anglers and fish populations in Wisconsin lakes.
Providing about $35 million in funding per year, NSF's biocomplexity program also focuses on these broad areas: biogeochemical cycles, genomic studies in environmental science and engineering, developing instrumentation and the use and impacts of materials in engineering and society.
According to NSF Director Rita Colwell, "Biocomplexity investigations will provide a more complete understanding of natural processes and cycles, of human behaviors and decisions in the natural world and of ways to use new technology effectively to observe the environment and sustain the diversity of life on Earth." (Colwell will also speak on two AAAS panels Saturday: "Oceans in our Solar System," from 9 a.m. to noon and "From Outside to Inside: Environmental Microorganisms as Human Pathogens," from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.)