Category Archives: uncategorized

Preserving personality diversity

Metaphorical application to human communities & policy planning:

Keim, Brandon, and Tristan Spinski. “Meet the Mice Who Make the Forest.” The New York Times, November 25, 2022, sec. Science.

…the personalities of small mammals influence their choice of seeds. Earlier this year the team described how some deer mice, depending on their personality, were more likely than others to cache red oak, white pine and American beech nuts in ways that promoted germination.

In turn, the personality-specific foraging strategies of rodents changed when predators were around…

And land use alters these dynamics.

Asked to define the practical implications of his research, Dr. Mortelliti said, “Preserve a diversity of personalities.” There’s no one ideal personality; rather, different individuals perform different roles. Depending on circumstance — drought, natural disturbances, fluctuations in predator populations — different personality types may come to the fore. …

A study the following year revealed that a more natural forest, with a mix of habitats rather than the uniformity favored by most commercial logging, contained a greater diversity of personalities.

“This diversity of personality types is maintained in populations because it’s a good thing, just like genetic diversity is a good thing,” Dr. Brehm said.

Mortelliti, Alessio, and Allison M. Brehm. “Environmental Heterogeneity and Population Density Affect the Functional Diversity of Personality Traits in Small Mammal Populations.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287, no. 1940 (December 9, 2020): 20201713.

We show that the richness, divergence and evenness of personality traits in wild populations are linked to key characteristics of the environment such as vegetation heterogeneity and a fundamental demographic parameter: population density. Maintaining functional diversity is widely considered a key conservation outcome [67,68] and our study provides evidence to suggest that conservation practitioners should consider vegetation heterogeneity and population density as key factors associated with high diversity of behavioural phenotypes. (Mortelliti and Brehm, 2020, p. 7)

(dear mouse photo from New York Times, “Meet the Mice Who Make the Forest.)

Dynamics of Growth, Conservation, Collapse and Renewal

An explicit challenge for our Alaska field teaching: How to enable students to see and understand dynamics of growth, conservation, collapse and renewal in our biophysical and social landscape? And then be able to apply the conceptual system literally and metaphorically elsewhere. Understanding the difference between literal and metaphorical. Along side, and complementary to, other ways of knowing.
Likely because of innate brain differences, a minority will easily pick up on this way of thinking. It’s important to reach that subset of students, for their benefit and for society. Then how best to bring in others, for whom it’s more of a reach, to open their minds in this direction, to the extent of their ability.


The adaptive cycle and its extension to panarchy (nested adaptive cycles) has been a useful metaphor and conceptual model for understanding long-term dynamics of change in ecological and social–ecological systems. We argue that adaptive cycles are ubiquitous in complex adaptive systems because they reflect endogenously generated dynamics as a result of processes of self-organization and evolution. We synthesize work from a wide array of fields to support this claim. If dynamics of growth, conservation, collapse and renewal are endogenous dynamics of complex adaptive systems, then there ought to be signals of system change over time that reflect this. We describe a series of largely thermodynamically based indicators that have been developed for this purpose, and we add a critical and heretofore missing component–namely, that of understanding dynamics of change (adaptive cycles) at objectively identified spatial and temporal scales nested within each system, instead of solely at the system level. The explicit consideration of scales, when coupled with selective indicators, may circumvent the need for multiple indicators to capture system dynamics and will provide a richer picture of system trajectory than that offered by a single-scale analysis. We describe feasible ways in which researchers could systematically and quantitatively look for signatures of adaptive cycle dynamics at scales within ecosystems, rather than relying on metaphor and largely qualitative descriptions.

–Sundstrom, Shana M., and Craig R. Allen. “The Adaptive Cycle: More than a Metaphor.” Ecological Complexity 39 (August 1, 2019): 100767.