University of Maryland
Center for Environmental Science
Robert E. Ulanowicz is Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Ecology with the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. He is author of Growth and Development: Ecosystems Phenomenology and Ecology, the Ascendant Perspective. Ulanowicz was awarded the 2007 Ilya Prigogine Medal from the Wessex Institute and the University of Siena for outstanding research in the field of ecological systems.
He is a 1961 graduate of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and received a B.E.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and 1968, respectively. He served as Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Catholic University of America before joining the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in 1970. He is fluent in German, conversational in Ukrainian and has a reading knowledge of Polish, French and Spanish.
Earlier at CBL, Prof. Ulanowicz pursued research into the estuarine hydrography of Chesapeake Bay and on methods for inverse modeling of ecological systems. His current interests include network analysis of trophic exchanges in ecosystems, information theory as applied to ecological systems, the thermodynamics of living systems, causality in living systems, and modeling subtropical wetland ecosystems in Florida (ATLSS) and in Belize. He has applied ecological principles to economic systems and participated in the ongoing dialog between science and religion.
Upon retiring, Ulanowicz moved with his wife to Gainesville, Florida, where he is Courtesy Professor with the Arthur R. Marshall Laboratory of the Department of Biology, University of Florida. He serves on the Advisory Boards of the Florida Springs Institute and the Ichetucknee Alliance, struggling to preserve the
springs of North Florida from destruction.
Thus far, the dominant paradigms through which modern scientists have viewed nature have been structured primarily around Newtonian and Darwinian approaches. As theoretical ecologist Robert E. Ulanowicz observes in his new work, A Third Window, neither of these models is sufficient for explaining how real change—in the form of creative advance or emergence—takes place in nature.
The metaphysical foundations laid by these great thinkers centuries ago are ill suited to sustain today's search for a comprehensive description of complex living systems. Ecosystem dynamics, for example, violate each and every one of the Newtonian presuppositions. Hence, Ulanowicz offers his
titular "third window"—a new way of understanding evolution and other natural processes beyond the common mechanistic or
materialistic philosophies of nature.
Drawing on the writings of Walter Elsasser, Karl Popper, Gregory Bateson, Robert Rosen,
and Alfred North Whitehead, as well as his own experience as a theoretical ecologist, Ulanowicz offers a new set of axioms for
how nature behaves. Chance and disarray in natural processes are shown to be necessary conditions for real change. Randomness is shown to contribute richness and autonomy to
the natural world.