This, That, and The Other: Three Remarks on the Sociology of Creativity [Wed. July 20]

This talk will review some of my current research on creativity in science and art:

1. Sociometric sensors promise to measure social interactions quantitatively, precisely, and unobtrusively. I’ll discuss a few findings from a pilot study of small group collaborations at two synthesis centers.

2. Path-breaking groups of artists and scientists that launch major artistic and intellectual movements share much in common, but also differ markedly along some social dimensions due to key differences between the fields of art and science. I’ll discuss some of these similarities and differences in relation to the specific character of these fields.

3. How theory groups die: I’ll discuss the social forces that cause the small groups that create new scientific paradigms to disintegrate, socially and creatively.


Dr. John N. Parker
Barrett, The Honors College
Arizona State University
john.parker at

Fostering Sci. Community at NCEAS: Welcome Site for Newcomers [Wed. July 13]

NCEAS is a central hub for a diverse array of scientists and research. New researchers, including visiting and early career researchers (ECRs), are constantly coming in and out at various frequencies. However, larger cohorts of scientists stationed at NCEAS are no longer entering at one time, making it more difficult to track the exciting research and possible collaborations within the center. As part of addressing this new dynamic, the resident ECRs are proposing a simple, advice-based website that provides basic and clear information concerning everything from housing to setting up access to the NCEAS servers. It simply provides the fundamentals of what an incoming scientist will need/can do before moving to Santa Barbara and within the first couple weeks here. The ECRs will maintain most of the site, allowing us to modify the information quickly when new issues or ideas arise. The beta-version of the site will be discussed and feedback is most welcome!

Looking forward to the discussion!

Halley E. Froehlich
Rachael Blake
Jamie Afflerbach
Casey O’Hara
Heather Soyka
Colette Ward
Claire Runge

Catering for wildlife in fire-prone Australian mallee habitats: it’s not rocket science, it’s more complex than that! [Wed. July 6]

Inappropriate fire regimes are recognized as a key threatening process to bird conservation globally, but particularly in Australia. Fire management often aims to maintain a “mosaic” of patches of differing fire history (pyrodiversity); assuming this will cater for the greatest variety of species. We tested this assumption across a 104,000 km2 area of the Murray Mallee region of southern Australia. We compared avian diversity in 28 ‘whole’ landscapes, representing different fire-driven mosaics.

Using a novel technique to age and map vegetation we demonstrated that fire influences mallee vegetation for over a century, particularly key habitat resources (e.g. tree hollows). We found little evidence that bird diversity was related to the diversity of fire age classes in a landscape. Similarly, there was little evidence of the importance of pyrodiversity for individual species. Instead, a key driver for all groups was the spatial extent of ecologically important fire age classes; in particular, the spatial extent of long-unburned mallee vegetation.

We used models of species distributions to evaluate the consequences for threatened bird species of alternative management scenarios for fire for the next twenty years. We evaluated the likely effect of planned burning programs that burnt 1%, 3% or 5% of public land annually. The outcomes of this work have provided an assessment of the relative risk of extinction for these species. This research has transformed understanding of how fire affects these threatened species in the region and has been embraced by fire managers and contributed to significant change in fire management policy.

Prof. Mike Clarke
Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution
La Trobe University, Australia