Excerpts from Rita Colwell's interview with The Scientist.
This interview was not published in the print edition.
Q. Is biocomplexity your own idea?
A. The biocomplexity initiative was begun at NSF after I arrived, building on programs already instituted, such as Life in Extreme Environments. The fundamental and underlying principle is that we must move from strictly reductionist research to research that synthesizes information and work toward a holistic approach to understanding and wisely managing the environment. We now have the computing capacity to analyze large databases. Thus, we can develop an integrative approach to study of the environment. Some of us remember attempts to build computer models 10 or 25 years ago. We simply weren't advanced sufficiently in either computer information technology or understanding the fundamental elements and constructs that comprise environmental systems. Now we're in a position to be able to study the complexity of ecosystems, especially...