Modeling Environmental Complexity

A picture of Yellowstone hot spring.

A microbial community growing in the runoff of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. The interplay of microbial growth and the flow of water produces brilliant patterns. (Image courtesy of Kate Harris. Used with permission.)


MIT Course Number

12.086 / 12.586

As Taught In

Fall 2014


Undergraduate / Graduate

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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the study of environmental phenomena that exhibit both organized structure and wide variability—i.e., complexity. Through focused study of a variety of physical, biological, and chemical problems in conjunction with theoretical models, we learn a series of lessons with wide applicability to understanding the structure and organization of the natural world. Students also learn how to construct minimal mathematical, physical, and computational models that provide informative answers to precise questions.

This course is appropriate for advanced undergraduates. Beginning graduate students are encouraged to register for 12.586 (graduate version of 12.086). Students taking the graduate version complete different assignments.

Other Versions

Related Content

Daniel Rothman. 12.086 Modeling Environmental Complexity. Fall 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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