Samuel Laney

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki

Hi All,

I go by "Sam" and I'm currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Nominally I'm a phytoplankton ecologist, as well as an electrical engineer, and most of my scientific work to date has been in the fields of oceanography and marine photosynthesis. But, I have broad interests and am eager to learn more this June about the applications you have for complexity science in your own research, and how this may overlap into issues in mine.

I'm interested in complexity science because I think it might shed some light on some longstanding questions in marine phytoplankton ecology. It seems odd how algae, being photosynthetic, are able to survive in the ocean when their light environment fluctuates so dramatically. Why is it that what works best in the most complex light environment is contained in possibly the most simple photosynthetic organisms. What strategies do phytoplankton employ for survival? How can we learn about these strategies, given the few photosynthetic properties that we can measure in the natural environment?

My pie-in-the-sky idea vis-a-vis the CSSS class would be to somehow gain skills or breadth to help me begin work on new analytical frameworks to tease out specific ecological properties of these organisms from what at first glance might seem to be random photosynthetic responses to continual changes in light.

I have a strong interdisciplinary background and have spent a lot of time thinking about what broadly different scientific disciplines have in common and how to have effective interdisciplinary collaborations. My experience has mostly been at the interface between engineering and biology, which at the moment concerns issues in signal processing and photosynthesis.

I have an unusual mathematical background for an ecologist, which sometimes has been helpful. I'm a competent programmer and have taught numerical methods and programming at the undergraduate level; this may be of use to students who might have somewhat less experience with programming or modeling.

Primarily I'm looking to the CSSS to give me a broad exposure to the range of questions and research being used currently in other fields to tackle complexity and nonlinearity problems. I think there is probably considerable overlap between questions in my field and in other fields but that these similarities have not yet been well explored. Ideally I would like to learn about how researchers in other fields are approaching questions that are similar conceptually to the ones I have in my field.

Looking forward to meeting you all and sharing ideas.