Downing's main research theme is to relate global perspectives on resilience thinking and social ecological systems to sustainable development needs at sub-global scales. Building on her work on the planetary boundaries concept, her research focuses on the often undifferentiated and unspecified human dimensions of global sustainability and on understanding how heterogeneously overlapping sub-global processes combine to shape dynamics at a global scale.
Downing has a background in ecology. For her PhD research she investigated the different roles of fishing and eutrophication on Lake Victoria (Africa)’s ecosystem from a purely ecological perspective and from a social-ecological system’s view, using multiple different modeling approaches.
Downing holds a PhD in Environmental Sciences from Wageningen University (Netherlands), and carried out her Master’s studies at James Cook University in Australia. Her interests include socio-ecological systems, cross-scale dynamics, complex systems, theoretical ecology, time series analysis and ecological modelling.
Research news | 2019-01-24
Mathematical models are essential in the quest to better understand the human impact on the world’s ecosystems. Lake Victoria may hold the cues
Research news | 2016-11-25
Amid rapid change, new Arctic Resilience Report identifies 19 tipping points and need to prepare for surprises
2018 - Journal / article
“Everything changes and nothing stands still” (Heraclitus). Here we review three major improvements to freshwater aquatic ecosystem models — and ecological models in general — as water quality scenario analysis tools towards a sustainable future. To tackle the rapid and deeply connected dynamics characteristic of the Anthropocene, we argue for the inclusion of eco-evolutionary, novel ecosystem and social-ecological dynamics. T...
2015 - Journal / article
Assessing the relative importance of environmental conditions and community interactions is necessary for evaluating the sensitivity of biological communities to anthropogenic change. Phytoplankton communities have a central role in aquatic food webs and biogeochemical cycles, therefore, consequences of differing community sensitivities may have broad ecosystem effects. Using two long-term time series (28 and 20 years) from...
2015 - Journal / article
Here, we present a community perspective on how to explore, exploit and evolve the diversity in aquatic ecosystem models. These models play an important role in understanding the functioning of aquatic ecosystems, filling in observation gaps and developing effective strategies for water quality management. In this spirit, numerous models have been developed since the 1970s. We set off to explore model diversity by making an ...
2014 - Journal / article
East Africa’s Lake Victoria provides resources and services to millions of people on the lake’s shores and abroad. In particular, the lake’s fisheries are an important source of protein, employment, and international economic connections for the whole region. Nonetheless, stock dynamics are poorly understood and currently unpredictable. Furthermore, fishery dynamics are intricately connected to other supporting services of the...