What We Are Reading Today: Modeling Populations of Adaptive Individuals

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Updated 21 May 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Modeling Populations of Adaptive Individuals

Authors: Steven F. Railsback and Bret C. Harvey

Ecologists now recognize that the dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems are strongly affected by adaptive individual behaviors. Yet until now, we have lacked effective and flexible methods for modeling such dynamics. Traditional ecological models become impractical with the inclusion of behavior, and the optimization approaches of behavioral ecology cannot be used when future conditions are unpredictable due to feedbacks from the behavior of other individuals. 

This book provides a comprehensive introduction to state- and prediction-based theory, or SPT, a powerful new approach to modeling trade-off behaviors in contexts such as individual-based population models where feedbacks and variability make optimization impossible.

Modeling Populations of Adaptive Individuals features a wealth of examples that range from highly simplified behavior models to complex population models in which individuals make adaptive trade-off decisions about habitat and activity selection in highly heterogeneous environments. Steven Railsback and Bret Harvey explain how SPT builds on key concepts from the state-based dynamic modeling. theory of behavioral ecology, and how it combines explicit predictions of future conditions with approximations of a fitness measure to represent how individuals make good—not optimal—decisions that they revise as conditions change. 

The resulting models are realistic, testable, adaptable, and invaluable for answering fundamental questions in ecology and forecasting ecological outcomes of real-world scenarios.


What We Are Reading Today: Democratic Federalism

Updated 04 June 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Democratic Federalism

Authors: Robert Inman and Daniel L. Rubinfeld

Around the world, federalism has emerged as the system of choice for nascent republics and established nations alike. In this book, leading scholars and governmental advisers Robert Inman and Daniel Rubinfeld consider the most promising forms of federal governance and the most effective path to enacting federal policies. 

The result is an essential guide to federalism, its principles, its applications, and its potential to enhance democratic governance.

Drawing on the latest work from economics, political science, and law, Inman and Rubinfeld assess different models of federalism and their relative abilities to promote economic efficiency, encourage the participation of citizens, and protect individual liberties. Under the right conditions, the authors argue, a federal democracy—including a national legislature with locally elected representatives—can best achieve these goals. Because a stable union between the national and local governments is key, Inman and Rubinfeld also propose an innovative method for evaluating new federal laws and their possible impact on state and local governments. Finally, to show what the adoption of federalism can mean for citizens, the authors discuss the evolution of governance in the European Union and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy.

Interdisciplinary in approach, Democratic Federalism brims with applicable policy ideas and comparative case studies of global significance. This book is indispensable for understanding the importance of federal forms of government—both in recent history and, crucially, for future democracies.