In Search of Elusive Warning Signals: Tipping Points in Ecology and Economics

Cocktails and Conversations with William "Buz" Brock

A recent wave of research has demonstrated the existence of generic Early Warning Signals (EWS’s) that help predict a large class of abrupt changes in the state of ecological systems -- e.g. “tipping points.” Examples range from experimental laboratory systems of living organisms at tiny scales such as microbes up to ecosystems at the scale of lakes, rangelands, marine systems, or coral reefs.

Recently a whole lake experiment by a team of limnologists has generated evidence for EWS’s of dramatic changes of states in small lakes. Mathematical models of ecosystem dynamics are built to understand mechanisms that cause EWS’s that help predict a change of state.

In this talk, Visiting Scholar William "Buz" Brock of RDCEP and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will give an overview of what classes of abrupt changes might be predicted (or not predicted) by EWS’s, and at what scales one should have hope of finding these signals. Turning from the environment to the marketplace, he will discuss whether there any EWS’s in the dynamical systems generated by self-interested forward-looking agents that economists study, such as asset markets.




5–5:30 p.m.      Reception
5:30–6:30 p.m. Talk and question-and-answer session


Mesirow Financial, 353 North Clark Street