Course: Modeling Social-Ecological Systems

Course summary: Social-Ecological (SE) Systems is a relatively new term created by an international group of leading environmental and social scientists to reflect the interconnected nature of social and ecological systems. The underlying thread tying together this new body of research and used to conceptualize social-ecological interaction and behavior is complexity/systems theory. This course introduces students to this new and exciting field of study, to modeling and simulation in general, and specifically to four modeling approaches useful for conducting research within this new field, including Causal-Loop (CL) Diagramming, Stock & Flow (S&F) Modeling, Social Network (SN) Modeling, and Multi-Agent (MA) Modeling. Through hands-on application, students will explore a number of concepts related to modeling and complexity/systems theory, including: feedback, nonlinear dynamics, regime shifts, self-organization, self-organized criticality, emergence, the adaptive cycle, and resilience.

As much as we tried presenting the material as simply as possible, modeling social-ecological systems is not a simple topic and to do it justice the course covers a lot of ground, some of which will be challenging. Do not be discouraged by this. Just be ready to be kept on your toes (i.e., this is not an easy course). Course activities include reading, engaging in 15 discussions (discussion guidelines), submitting 2 assignments, taking a quiz, and completing a literature review. The typical flow of activities is that you'll have a discussion post or assignment due before the end of every Thursday and Sunday. One time a discussion will be replaced with the quiz.

Prerequisites: Advanced reading comprehension and analytical skills, intermediate research and computer skills, regular access to the Internet, and access to a computer that meets the requirements provided here: system requirements.

Instructor: Dr. Garry Sotnik

Institution: Last taught (Fall, 2020) at Portland State University, Systems Science Program.

Documents: Discussion guidelines.