William Burnside

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki

I'm a first-year PhD student in biology at the U. of New Mexico working with Jim Brown. I'm most interested in the metabolic basis of ecology, mechanisms behind ecological patterns, and using ecological analogies to inform other disciplines and vice versa. My academic background is primarily in ecology and environmental studies with some human biology and anthropology.

1. What topics do you have some expertise in and would you be willing to help others learn them? I'm most familiar with ecology, evolutionary biology, and basic biology and am happy to help with that as I can.

2. What do you want to learn? I want to learn complex systems approaches in the biological, physical, and social sciences as well as basic, bottom-up techniques for investigating questions that span multiple disciplines.

3. Do you have any projects that would benefit from interdisciplinary approach? Yes... applying ecological analogies and models to tumor development, and understanding why the latitudinal gradient of indigenous human cultural diversity mirrors that of species diversity generally.

4. Do you have any ideas for what sort of project you would like to attack this summer? I'd like to tackle either of those listed in question 3 or see whether complex systems approaches might help me understand the effect of temperature on the rate of ecological interactions, such as predation, competitive interactions, and mating.

5. What's your favorite "big problem"? I don't have a favorite per se, but I'm very interested in why patterns in nature, such as the distributions of organisms, repeat themselves at multiple scales in space and over time. I'm also interested in why analogous processes seem to operate in seemingly "unrelated" systems, such as in ecosystems and in tumor systems.

6. If you were given the opportunity to see where we were in one hundred years with respect to progress on one problem/subject, what would it be? The role of phlebotomists in modern America... wait, that's not right... try: What is behind the gradient of increasing biological, cultural, and ecological diversity as one moves from the poles toward the tropics?