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Modeling Environmental Complexity

A microbial community growing.

A microbial community growing in the runoff of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. The interplay of microbial growth and the flow of water produces brilliant patterns. (Image courtesy of Kate Harris. Used with permission.)


MIT Course Number

12.086 / 12.586

As Taught In

Fall 2008


Undergraduate / Graduate

Course Features

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the study of environmental phenomena that exhibit both organized structure and wide variability—i.e., complexity. Through focused study of a variety of physical, biological, and chemical problems in conjunction with theoretical models, we learn a series of lessons with wide applicability to understanding the structure and organization of the natural world. Students will also learn how to construct minimal mathematical, physical, and computational models that provide informative answers to precise questions.