Life on earth has survived five mass extinctions, periods when a great many types of life forms suddenly disappear.  The most recent mass extinction was many millions of years ago. Since then, our ecology and the climate supporting it has experienced a relatively steady state.  That ecological balance supporting life is now in danger of tipping, and this could cause a sixth mass extinction. But you can take action to help prevent this, once you understand ecosystem balancing and tipping. A good way to learn about balancing and tipping is through toy models, simplified or smaller versions of the larger real world.  Toy models of ecological dynamics can be an adventure into the wonder of microbial, ocean and land diversity. We explore toy models of balancing and tipping in predator-prey interactions, population growth, solar energy systems, climate change, and human behavior that has ecological, climate and health consequences. See our book on this topic.

Our new board game has the title “Tip A Barely Balanced Ecosystem Game” to suggest that ecological balancing is precarious, but the term balanced can be misleading if it implies that the ecology can resist man’s interventions. We also provide a version of Tip that has simpler rules. The board pieces are smaller so more fit on the board. We call this simpler game, Little Tip.  Both board games are models of ecosystem dynamics, which makes them great learning tools as well as fun to play.

We also provide computer simulations of various features of ecosystems. We call these toy models because you can easily manipulate these computer models to see how changing one feature of the model affects the behavior of the system over time.

Our toy models show how periods of balance may last a long time, but are nonetheless punctuated by tipping, much as in earth’s ecological history. Toy models of such ecological dynamics can be great fun, and fascinating, engages mathematical thinking and scientific thinking, and is an adventure into the wonder of microbial, oceanic and terrestrial diversity.