Ecology in the Anthropocene: Observing, Understanding, and Embracing Human Nature

Network News Fall 2012, Vol. 25 No. 3
ASM Reports
Presented by Erle C. Ellis, University of Maryland

The important message of the Anthropocene is that humans systems are an earth system now…how the human system goes is how the planet goes.

Erle C. Ellis, an Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, investigates the ecology of anthropogenic landscapes and their changes at local and global scales. His early work studied nitrogen cycling and sustainable agroecosystem management in China's ancient village ecosystems, and later measured long-term changes in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus storage and flux across China's village landscapes caused by the transition from traditional to industrially-based agricultural systems.Ellis noted that the science of ecology in the US has gone from one in which the human element was considered a marginal, semi-important factor to one where it’s now central to ecology. Indeed, his basic messages were that humans are no longer a “temporary disturbance”; that human systems are now an earth system that is permanent in the Anthropocene; and that it is global because humans shape almost every ecological pattern and process around the world.

Ellis challenged LTER scientists to use emerging technologies, such as online social computational tools, and to tap into local knowledge and citizen science, including user deployed remote sensing, to ease their work. He also encouraged LTER scientists to include factors they normally don’t think are relevant, such as the marketplace and policy, which are fundamental in predicting what will happen in the future.

Watch Dr. Ellis’ presentation, Ecology in the Anthropocene: Observing, Understanding, and Embracing Human Nature.

By McOwiti O. Thomas (LNO)