This unusual book had an unusual origin. It resulted from a symposium entitled “Scaling Biodiversity” that took place in Prague, Czech Republic, on 19–22 October 2004. The goal of the symposium was to bring together a diverse group of scientists who are applying ideas, approaches, and methods of scaling to address major conceptual questions about biodiversity.
The symposium was cosponsored by the Santa Fe Institute and Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University in Prague and co-organized by David Storch of Charles University, Pablo Marquet of the Catholic University in Chile, James Brown of the University of New Mexico, and Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute. This sponsorship and organizing committee says much about the origin and operation of the workshop, the identity of the invited contributors, and the contents of this book. All of the co-organizers and many of the participants have strong relationships with the Santa Fe Institute (SFI). Much of the funding for the symposium, the activities of the co-organizers that led up to it, and the preparation of this book came from the SFI International Programs. Founded in 1984, the Institute is an interdisciplinary research center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is widely regarded as the birthplace and leading center of modern “complexity science”. It is a special place that attracts mathematicians and physicists, biologists and ecologists, economists and anthropologists, who are dedicated to working on big, challenging questions in the natural and social sciences.