Describing the interactions between organisms in nature as an economic system is not new. But however common it may be to mention the economy of nature, it is novel to construct a full theory that characterizes the history of life and the evolution of ecosystems as an economic system. Evolutionary biologist Geerat Vermeij does exactly that. In his book 'Nature: An Economic History' (2004) he summarizes economic ideas about ecosystems and evolution that he has been developing for several decades. In his representation, the phenomena that make up the forces and connections responsible for the history of life are economy in action. During his keynote we learn more on this viewpoint.
Geerat Vermeij is a distinguished professor of marine ecology and paleoecology at the University of California, and one of the master naturalists of our time. He is probably best known for his work chronicling the arms race between long-extinct species of molluscs and their predators. Blind since childhood and equipped with an acute sense of touch, Vermeij studies molluscs in a completely unique way, with his fingertips. By examining and analyzing fossils for evidence of interspecies competition and predation, Vermeij has prompted the field of paleobiology to acknowledge the profound influences creatures have on fashioning each other's evolutionary fates.
Vermeij has published over 250 scientific papers and six books, including 'Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life', 'A Natural History of Shells', and a recent autobiography entitled 'Privileged Hands: A Scientific Life'. Vermeij received a MacArthur Fellowship, the “genius” grant in 1992, and in 2000 was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Recently he received the Addison Emery Verrill Medal from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The award recognizes “signal practitioners in the arts of natural history and natural sciences.”