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EERI San Diego Chapter Webinar Series


Friday, December 3rd, 2021
12:00pm-2:00pm PST

The concept of punctuated equilibrium, as advanced by Stephen Jay Gould, will be applied to infrastructure. The evolution of key infrastructure policies will be traced. Professor Emeritus Tom O’Rourke (Cornell University) will present “Punctuated Resilience” and discuss how infrastructure resilience is punctuated by its relationship to natural hazards and climate change. He will also discuss how punctuated resilience is an important mechanism for improving the engineering and management of critical facilities. The agents of change that lead to improved policies and approaches are explored, including the technical, institutional, and social challenges of introducing new technologies and engaging community support.

Professor Emeritus Christopher Wills (UC San Diego) will present “Punctuated Equilibrium and How It Works.” In 1972, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould introduced the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe the bursts of evolution that follow sudden major changes in the Earth’s environment, and the long periods of relative stasis that lay between these giant events. Now, we realize that many groups of organisms have managed to survive even the severest punctuations, and that waves of extinction have taken place throughout periods of stasis. Major extinction events do put severe stress on the entire biosphere, but we will see how Darwinian evolution enables life to recover from these stresses and often takes life in new directions even without giant environmental disasters.

This presentation is free and open to the public.

Click here to register for the webinar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


EERI Announcements12:00pm-12:15pm
"Punctuated Equilibrium and How It Works"
Prof. Emeritus Christopher Wills (UCSD)
"Punctuated Resilience"
Prof. Emeritus Tom O'Rourke (Cornell University)


Tom O’Rourke

Tom O’Rourke is the Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Engineering Emeritus in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, Distinguished Member of ASCE, International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Member of the Mexican Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He authored or co-authored over 410 technical publications, and has received numerous awards for his research. His interests cover geotechnical engineering, earthquake engineering, underground construction technologies, engineering for large, geographically distributed systems, and geographic information technologies and database management.

Christopher Wills 

Born in England, Christopher Wills grew up in Canada. From 1972 until his retirement in 2010 he was associate and full professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego. He was the first to deliberately select for genetic variants in enzymes. He has explored the roles of genetic recombination in the maintenance of genetic variation in Drosophila and yeast, and the role of microsatellite DNA variation in the evolution of diseases and the evolution of our species. Most recently, he has organized a large group of ecologists from around the world to apply new analytical methods to the forces that are maintaining variation in complex ecosystems such as rainforests and coral reefs. He has written eight books for the general public on evolution and ecology. In 1999 he received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.