How Information Theory Could Hold the Key to Quantifying Nature

John Harte, a professor of ecology at the University of California, Berkeley,has developed what he calls the maximum entropy (MaxEnt) theory of ecology, which may offer a solution to a long-standing problem in ecology: how to calculate the total number of species in an ecosystem, as well as other important numbers, based on extremely limited information — which is all that ecologists, no matter how many years they spend in the field, ever have. […] He and his colleagues will soon publish the results of a study that estimates the number of insect and tree species living in a tropical forest in Panama. The paper will also suggest how MaxEnt could give species estimates in the Amazon, a swath of more than 2 million square miles of land that is notoriously difficult to survey.

If the MaxEnt theory of ecology can give good estimates in a wide variety of scenarios, it could help answer the many questions that revolve around how species are spread across the landscape, such as how many would be lost if a forest were cleared, how to design wildlife preserves that keep species intact, or how many rarely seen species might be hiding in a given area. Perhaps more importantly, the theory hints at a unified way of thinking about ecology — as a system that can be described with just a few variables, with all the complexity of life built on top.

Read the article @WIRED


A Pair of Arctic Wolves by Jeannette Katzir


Happy Friday! Did you know that the Aquarium was built on the site of an old sardine cannery? In a sense, we’re still very much in the sardine business. We have thousands of these hypnotic fish, and they come to us through good relations with local fishermen.

Watch them live

Learn why sardines are a Seafood Watch “Best Choice”

Oh, yes! Super excited to start! #kenfollett #centurytriology

Just finished meeting my favorite author, Ken Follett in DC w/ Becky and Justin #kenfollett #centurytriology #dc