A venture into ecosystem dynamics: Models and complexities

Event Date: April 26, 2011
Speaker: Dr. Roger A. Schmitz
Speaker Affiliation: Keating-Crawford Professor (Emeritus) of Chemical Engineering
University of Notre Dame
Time: 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Location: FRNY G140


Well-known complex behavior of certain chemically reacting systems – including multiple steady states, sustained oscillations and intrinsic chaos – will be related in this seminar to the dynamics of food webs and ecosystems. There such behavior abounds and gives rise to a rich assortment of features that form the framework for our understanding of species extinctions, the formation and resilience (or fragility) of communities of species, and catastrophic responses to external disturbances generally. Such features will be illustrated in this seminar by way of mathematical models, analysis and simulations. Attention will be given to the fact that ecosystems in nature, models of which are burdened with high-dimensional state and parameter spaces, resist systematic study and remain fertile and challenging territory for research.


Dr. Roger A. Schmitz joined the Notre Dame faculty in the fall of 1979 as Keating-Crawford Professor and Chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering. He became McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering in 1981, and from 1985 to 1987, he held a concurrent position as Special Assistant to the Provost for University Computing. He served as Dean of Engineering until 1987 when he was named Vice President and Associate Provost. Among his responsibilities in that position were academic facilities, budgets, and services, including University computing. In 1995, he left that position to return to his Professorship on the Chemical Engineering faculty, and in 2005 he retired to emeritus status.

Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Schmitz had been a member of the University of Illinois faculty since 1962. He held visiting appointments during 1968-69 at the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Illinois in 1959, and was awarded his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1962.

Awards and recognitions include:

Guggenheim Fellowship, 1968-69;
Allan P. Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 1970;
University of Illinois Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 1975;
George Westinghouse Award of the American Society for Engineering Education, 1977; R. H. Wilhelm Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 1981;
Election to the National Academy of Engineering; 1984;
University of Notre Dame College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award, 1998.

Currently his principal interests center on the dynamics of ecosystems and the environment, particularly on the development and use of models for mathematical studies and simulations.