Process-Function Ecology, Wicked Problems, Ecological Evolution | Vasishth | Spanda J | 2015

With “systemic change” a potential buzzword, determining the validity of research may lead to scholarly authentication through retracing references. Ashwani Vasishth , from Ramapo College of New Jersey, published an article, writing:

These three memes – process-function ecology, “wicked problems” and ecological evolution – may together give us some interesting ways to begin to talk about systemic change in ways that lead to novel insights. When systems are viewed as nested, scale-hierarchic structures, and when they are conceived as constituted by processes and functions, and when we view change processes themselves as being driven by a sophisticated understanding of evolutionary dynamics, then we may come to a place where systemic change can be viewed as more closely approximating actual, pluralistic reality, rather than as the simplifications of reality that emerge from the more mechanical metaphors from classical physics.

Vasishth (2015), p. 111

The 2015 article resonates with me, with citations to many researchers whom I also reference.

To dig deeper, we can go back to the doctoral dissertation at USC.

At the University of Southern California, I am appreciative of Niraj Verma’s early help in learning to think critically about the idea of a systems approach.

Vasishth (2006), p. viii

There’s a direct tie between Niraj Verma and C. West Churchman.

Eugene P. Odum validated my intuitions about the meaning of ecosystem ecology for planning practice, and gave generously of his time to elaborate on his own ideas in this regard.

Vasishth (2006), p. viii-ix

Eugene Odum has been described, by the University of Georgia in 2018, as “the father of modern ecology”.

In a 2005 biography of The National Academies Press, “Eugene P. Odum was recognized nationally and internationally as a pioneer in ecosystem ecology.

Intellectually, I owe much to the work of Timothy F.H. Allen and Thomas W. Hoekstra, who gave me my point of entry into process-function ecosystem ecology.

Vasishth (2006), p. x

Timothy F.H. Allen is listed as a professor emeritus at University of Wisconsin Madison, as a expert in “biological theorist of complexity working in ecological economics”.

Since all of these listed figures are luminaries of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, I’m feeling just one-degree removed from Ashwani Vasisth.


Vasishth, Ashwani. 2006. “Getting Humans Back Into Nature: A Scale-Hierarchic Ecosystem Approach to Adaptive Ecological Planning.” Doctoral dissertation, Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California. Also accessible at

Vasishth, Ashwani. 2015. “Reconceptualizing Systemic Change Using an Ecosystem Approach from Process-Function Ecology.” Spanda Journal 6 (1): 111–18. Accessible from . Issue accessible as open access at,1-2015.pdf

Vasishth (2006) Figure 4: The three meanings of scale. [MEA, 2006]

#ecological-evolution, #ecosystem-ecology, #process-function-ecology, #wicked-problems