Geofunctions: purposes and agents in global environmental sciences

Principal Investigator: Gillian Barker, University of Pittsburgh

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Overview
Team

This project seeks to explore, evaluate, and augment the theoretical frameworks of Earth systems scientists, ecologists, and climate scientists using concepts of function, purpose, and agency, especially considering increased understanding of interdependencies and feedbacks between geologic, thermodynamic, ecological, and biological processes. In particular, they will analyze and systematically catalog the different implications for explanation, prediction, and intervention found in heterogeneous conceptual models with an eye to providing a pragmatic operational framework for researchers across disciplines and ontological perspectives. A key output of this work will be scholarly resources that feed directly into applications for policy and resource management decision-making.

Gillian Barker

Gillian Barker

Cluster:
Higher-Level Agency and Directionality in Ecology and Earth Science
Project:
Geofunctions: purposes and agents in global environmental sciences
Role:
Subaward Principal Investigator

Gillian Barker received her training at the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Diego. She is Visiting Research Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University. Dr. Barker’s research examines how the biological and social sciences deal with causal complexity, and how science can make sense of apparent normativity, intentionality, and teleology in the natural world. Her current work focuses on the distinctive features of complex adaptive systems, exploring how scientists can best grapple with these in investigating ecological resilience and evolutionary dynamics, human cognition and social behavior, and the interconnected global-scale processes upon which human societies depend. Dr. Barker is author of Beyond Biofatalism: Human Nature for an Evolving World, and co-author with Philip Kitcher of Philosophy of Science: A New Introduction.

Eric Desjardins

Eric Desjardins

Cluster:
Higher-Level Agency and Directionality in Ecology and Earth Science
Project:
Geofunctions: purposes and agents in global environmental sciences
Institution:
Western University

Eric Desjardins is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Western University and the Associate Director of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. He works on the normative dimensions of historical contingency and biological entanglement in various life sciences. The main goals of his research are 1) to clarify the meaning of and relation between these two notions, 2) explore and develop conceptual frameworks that can explain their relevance in various disciplines (especially experimental evolution and ecology), and 3) show how these frameworks can be used in promoting more effective and ethical decision making in an increasingly human-impacted world.

Justin Donhauser

Justin Donhauser

Cluster:
Higher-Level Agency and Directionality in Ecology and Earth Science
Project:
Geofunctions: purposes and agents in global environmental sciences

Justin Donhauser's work tackles methodological, practical, and broadly social issues at the intersection of applied sciences and public policy and resource management in a practicable way. He specializes in the logic and philosophical foundations of big‐data and statistical modelling methods in systems ecology and climate science, and, more recently, also has numerous projects on issues in applied AI and robotics in those and other areas.

Danielle  Way

Danielle Way

Cluster:
Higher-Level Agency and Directionality in Ecology and Earth Science
Project:
Geofunctions: purposes and agents in global environmental sciences
Institution:
Western University

Danielle Way is an Associate Professor in Biology at Western and the Director of the Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre. Way specializes in understanding plant responses to rising atmospheric CO2 and warming, combining biochemistry, physiology and modeling. She is a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher, a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada, and received the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists’ C.D. Nelson Award for outstanding early career research in plant science. Way holds appointments with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab and Duke University, and is the Reviews Editor for Global Change Biology and the Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Plant, Cell & Environment, top journals in her field. She has 81 peer-reviewed papers in leading journals such as PNAS, Nature Ecology & Evolution and Global Change Biology, resulting in >6075 citations and an h-index of 35.

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