Assignment 2: Conceptual Frameworks due February 15, 2018

The world is complex and interrelated. Simplified models, or conceptual frameworks, are diagrammatic representations that can help us organize our understanding about how complex systems work, as well as providing the basis for generating hypotheses and research questions. For this assignment, your mission is to create a conceptual framework for a system of your choice. It can be pretty much any system (that is, any set of interacting components). You could create, for example, a conceptual framework that helps you to understand social-ecological phenomena such as: winter inversions or a local hydrologic system, the complex dynamics of conversations at the family dinner table, the ecology of your favorite ski resort, etc. See example, next page.

1.QUESTION – You’ll need a starting point for your system – a question, an issue, etc. In the first assignment you had to develop a question and find resources to help find an answer. This time, you’ll be working through your understanding of the system by mapping out the components of the system and how they interact. It helps if you have a question you just always wonder about – you don’t need to know the answer, but this assignment gives you an opportunity to work on that question a bit. You can also use the same question you used for assignment 1, if it works.

Be sure to state your question in the assignment!

2.DIAGRAM – Sketch out, by hand or in a graphics software or powerpoint, the conceptual framework. Your diagram should include 3-8 components of a system as well as the processes that link them. We don’t necessarily need high graphics quality here, as long as it’s legible.

3. EXPLAIN – Use text as necessary, either concisely in the diagram itself or in a caption, to explain the processes and relationships that link the components of your system. You should indicate which components/processes you are sure of and which ones are hypothetical. If you did background research, be sure to list your sources of information.

NOTE 1: Your conceptual framework does not have to include an entire system, only relevant parts. Trying to show a whole system could get terribly complicated! Limit yourself to the required 3-8 components. These should be really key components and processes in your system. It may not necessarily represent an ecosystem; it could be a system of ideas, organizations, people, etc.

NOTE 2: your conceptual framework does not have to be “correct”, just your best attempt!! You may or may not want/need to do some background research to help substantiate your framework.

GRADING: You will be graded on: 1) Clearly stating a question or questions that the framework will help you explore. 2) choosing an appropriate system and having an appropriate number of system components with clear relationships shown 3) framework is logical and well-explained


1.QUESTION: This is a diagram I worked out with colleagues several years ago in response to the question “What is ecological planning?”


D:\Sarah's Documents\Ecological Planning Center\Ecological planning diagram simple.jpg



The Biophysical Environment consists of the local ecosystems and non-human processes.

The Built Environment is the designed and engineered structures associated with human settlements, including roads, buildings, infrastructure, and other manipulations of the environment.

The Sociocultural Environment consists of the informal and formal human social relationships, institutions and organizations of the human community in that place.


The relationship between the Biophysical and Built environments has to do with ecological limits, resources, and built environment impacts such as flooding, pollution, and fragmentation.

The relationship between the Biophysical and Sociocultural environments is how humans in that place perceive, relate to, and interact with nature, and may be the basis of the local economy.

The relationship between the Sociocultural and Built environments is represented by the fields of engineering, architecture, design.

Ecological Planning, then, consists of planning activities that lie at the intersection of all of these realms because ecological planning must engage information from all three and integrate them into beneficial outcomes.