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An Evolving Course In Ecological Thermodynamics

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Biology and Engineering

Tagged Division

Biological & Agricultural

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.207.1 - 12.207.14



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Paper Authors


Ernest Tollner University of Georgia-Athens

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Dr. Ernest W. Tollner is a native of Maysville, KY and received his BS and MS degrees in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Kentucky. He did his doctorate in Biosystems engineering at Auburn. His graduate work was concerned with computer modeling erosion control, water resource development and animal waste management. This work provided the foundation for extension into composting, bioconversion and imaging research. Dr. Tollner was among the first to use tomographic scanning for charactering soils, food products and logs. Research over the past 25 years at the University of Georgia has resulted in over 100 publications and 3 patents.

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Caner Kazanci Univ. of Georgia

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Dr. Caner Kazanci is a native of Izmir, Turkey and received his MS and
PhD degrees in Mathematical Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA. His graduate work was on mathematical biology, and was
concerned with modeling biological processes and analysis of large
biochemical pathways. This work is now implemented to study ecological
network models. Development of a new high resolution simulation
technique provides a unique opportunity to analyze higher order
properties of these networks.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Evolving Course in Ecological Thermodynamics

Ernest W. Tollner and Caner Kazanci


The ecological thermodynamics course at the University of Georgia has served as a platform for developing a novel Lagrangian type ecological thermodynamics approach that mimics the statistical thermodynamics approach in that it attempts to focus on system state before and after a process. The Lagrangian approach compliments the classical process-based thermodynamic approach that focuses on the thermo-mechanical processes involved in changing a system state. The conduct of an entropy analyses has proven to be beneficial in that it provides an independent look at the energy budget. The seminar environment has proven useful for faculty and students with a non-engineering background to grasp the fundamentals of thermodynamics. The experience continues to bring to light pedagogical approaches that can be useful to making one of the most dreaded engineering science courses more palatable to engineering students.


Can thermodynamic principles enable a qualitative basis for ecological engineering design? New insights into interdisciplinary engineering endeavors, from classical modeling to nano – macroscale extrapolation and critical evaluation, weigh heavily on the pervasive nature of thermodynamics in the physical world. Concepts being developed in the Systems Ecology program at the University of Georgia provide the basis for interdisciplinary thermodynamics research in a seminar format, with periodic oral and written reports to educate classmates on student findings. An important component of the course is new approaches for bridging the gap between an increasingly popular technique known as network environ analysis and current works in ecological thermodynamics. The seminar tackles concepts in a typical engineering thermodynamics course that are relevant to science in general. We then explore some concepts of statistical thermodynamics that were successful in predicting thermodynamics of gases and solids based on molecular considerations.

The first offering of the course left us with the impression that classical approaches to applying entropy were less than satisfying, particularly when large temporal and geographic scales were involved. Statistical mechanics can be used to predict thermodynamic properties when homogeneity and near equilibrium conditions can be reasonably assumed. Living systems with all their complexities add layers of complications. The purpose of this paper is to explore an analogue of statistical thermodynamics on an ecological scale and see how it compliments classical thermodynamic analyses.

Tollner, E., & Kazanci, C. (2007, June), An Evolving Course In Ecological Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2229

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