Prior NSF Research Results
goal is to increase scientific understanding of long-term co-evolutionary
interactions between people and their environments, or what may be termed
"human ecodynamics", and to advance the use of past dynamics
as explanatory models for contemporary global environmental change. Our
theoretical orientation is that of ecosystem-culture "co-evolution".
Our approach offers the real advantage of long-term historical data, provided
by archaeology and paleoecology, combined with research on ecological
and demographic processes.
This research is focused on
the Hawaiian Islands, but the issues we address are global. The cultural
and biological processes that developed and interacted in Hawaii, from
population growth to the increasing centralization of political power
and economic control, have happened everywhere and indeed are taking place
globally today. The Hawaiian Islands are unique in the precision with
which we can define the arena in which these processes play
out, from the biogeochemical matrix underlying agricultural development
to the nature and isolation of the founding culture. Molecular biologists
describing a particular model organism (C. elegans) characterize it as
possessing "the ideal compromise between complexity and tractability".
For our questions, we believe that the same can be said of the Hawaiian
Islands. The approaches, concepts, and models developed here can contribute
to basic understanding of how ecosystems, agriculture, and social structure
interacted in a
constrained, isolated world - and that understanding can illuminate how
we view the world today.