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Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Human Development, at Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan.


Thomas Abel

Associate Professor



Contact Information




PHONE        886-3-8572677 Ext.3180


OFFICE        2E320



Past-President, International Society for the Advancement of Emergy Research (ISAER)

Program Chair, Master’s Program in Biocultural Evolution (flyer English, Chinese)




Areas of Expertise

B.A. Anthropology, University of Florida

B.S. Computer Science, Florida Institute of Technology

PhD Anthropology, University of Florida

Cultural evolution, systems ecology, emergy ecological economics, complexity, cognition, linguistics, machine learning, simulation





Cultural evolution is a unifying theme for much of my work and thought.  I conceptualize evolution within an expanded synthesis that includes thermodynamic self-organization.  The study of cultural evolution, therefore, should be located within study of the self-organization of human-ecosystems.

This interest has led my research in two related directions.  In the first case, I am exploring the structure of ‘culture’, the information produced by people in a hierarchy of forms that include discourse, media, ritual, education, research, law, and others.  In the second case, I am attempting to demonstrate the hierarchical organization of economy, people, and culture that is nested within ecosystems.

In both cases I am expanding upon the work of famed ecologist H.T. Odum.  In the first case I am exploring his general theory of the 'information cycle', an evolutionary-ecological model of the processes of information maintenance and change.  In the second case, I am utilizing the ecological-economics of emergy that he pioneered as a tool to demonstrate the human-cultural-ecosystem hierarchy of which we are all a part.


Recent Publications


Forthcoming “Pools of Money: ‘Information Cycles’ for the Production and Maintenance of Financial Information.” Journal of Cleaner Production


2015 “Cultural Transmission in Cycles: The Production and Maintenance of Cumulative Culture.” Journal of Cognition and Culture, 15:443–492


2015 “Convergence and Divergence in the Production of Energy Transformation Hierarchies,” Ecological Modelling 315:4–11


2014 “Evaluating Local Human-Ecological Impacts of Whale Watching Ecotourism in Taiwan.” Taiwan Journal of Indigenous Studies, 7(4):63-88.


2014 “Culture in Cycles: Considering H.T. Odum's 'Information Cycle'.” International Journal of General Systems. 43(1):44-74.


2013 “Energy and the social hierarchy of households (and buildings).” In Architecture and Energy. W.W. Braham and D. Willis, eds. Pp. 49-63. Routledge. (video)


2013 “Emergy evaluation of DNA and culture in ‘information cycles’Ecological Modelling 251 (2013) 85–98


Courses Taught


˛  Ideas in Anthropology

˛  Human Adaptation and Cultural Evolution

˛  Environmental Education

˛  Language Development

˛  Ecotourism

˛  Cognitive Anthropology


˛  History and Theory of Anthropology

˛  Culture and Evolution

˛  Environmental Anthropology




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