Robert Ulanowicz

Robert E. Ulanowicz (born September 17, 1943 in Baltimore) is an American theoretical ecologist and philosopher who is best known for his search for a "unified theory of ecology". He is Professor of Theoretical Ecology at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. Ulanowicz received both his BS and PhD in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and 68, respectively. Dr. Ulanowicz currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.


Ulanowicz uses techniques from information theory and thermodynamics in order to study the organization of the flows of energy and nutrients within ecosystems. Although his ideas have been primarily applied in ecology, many of his concepts are abstract and have been applied to other areas in which flow networks arise, such as economics.

Although Ulanowicz initially began his career with some substantial successes in modeling of ecological systems using differential equations, he soon began to reach the limits of this approach. Realizing that any ecosystem is a Complex system, he decided to move away from what he saw as the inappropriate use of a reductionist approach, and instead began to work towards development of theoretical measures of the ecosystem as a whole, such as ascendency.

Works & Recognition

Ulanowicz has authored or co-authored over a hundred articles in theoretical ecology and related areas of philosophy, especially those dealing with autocatalysis and causality. He has authored two books and is working on a third.

  • Ecology: The Ascendant Perspective, Columbia University Press (1997) (ISBN: 0231108281) - Written for a more general audience
  • Growth and Development - Ecosystems phenomenology, Springer (1986) (ISBN: 0387962654) - A more technical exposition of Ulanowicz's ideas

Ulanowicz was named the recipient of the 2007 Ilya Prigogine Medal for outstanding research in ecological systems. He participated in the Stock Exchange of Visions project in 2007.


External links

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