Thursday, January 3, 2008

Course wrap-up: its over now...

Well, the semester is long done now. The papers are in, grades are out, and we've gone on to other things as far as the class goes. Overall, it was a great semester (er at least I thought so...) and we ventured over a lot of territory in the literature. The students were fantastic and taught the instructors a great deal. Thanks. We appreciate everyone's hard work.

The blog has been a bit slow lately but hopefully will pick up steam again here soon as I recover from my xmas break coma. This blog will change a little bit as it won't be specifically a course resource in the following semester, but it will remain active as a hotbed for information, news, and discussion on human macroecology (and other broadly related themes of course). And you all know I'd love to have a few more consistent contributors... I hope those of you who took the class and any who just stumbled onto this blog will continue to check in regularly.

We also really enjoyed doing the 'end oral dialogs.' (Each student met with the instructors for an hour long conversation about the semester during finals week). While a full day of these rendered Bill, Jordan, and I nearly brain dead and certainly less-able-than-usual to speak in complete sentences, we got a lot out of finding out what people really focused on during the semester - and what they retained as the salient themes. Pretty unanimously people liked the structure of the class - having a blog as a resource - focusing on discussion of recent papers.
Most folks really liked adopting the concepts of emergence and the theoretical toolkit of life history theory into human ecology. We did not get a clear consensus for things like the favorite paper but the content of Bettencourt et al (2007 in PNAS) and Moses and Brown (2003 in ecol letters(this link is to a pdf)) sure seemed to stay with people and leave them thinking. These papers are definitely thought provoking and provide theoretical frameworks and findings that should be widely contemplated and discussed. The classic paper by Leslie White (1943) also seemed to leave a lasting impression. Other frequently mentioned papers included those from the week on extinctions and the system dynamics approaches outlines in weeks 10 and 11 (especially papers by Tainter and Holling). Life history theory in general seemed widely appreciated as well.

We hope that as people move forward into different areas that they'll retain some of the approach to science we outlined and maintain a skeptical and analytical view when approaching claims of human uniqueness. We also hope they'll consider those very large-scale patterns and the mechanisms that underlie them - of course not to replace of microecological studies but to compliment them and extend their findings.

More soon.

Best wishes everyone. Thanks again for a great semester.

Happy New Year.


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