## The Many Solutions of the Population Equation

March 16, 2015 by richbeveridge

I never studied the logistic equation as a student. I first encountered this relationship as an instructor in one of the *College Algebra* textbooks I was reviewing and/or teaching from and was intrigued by the application of this “growth with constraints” model to a natural resource. In researching applying the logistic model to natural resource consumption, I immediately ran into M. King Hubbard’s work on Peak Oil.

Then, when I was teaching integral calculus last winter, we began a unit on separable differential equations. I was poking around looking for good application problems that would utilize separable ODEs and ran into the fundamental population differential relationship , followed by the relationship I had used for the logistic with defined as the “carrying capacity” or maximum growth for the population.

We went through the procedures for solving each of these ODEs (as well as the continuous mixing problems which follow a similar pattern) and then we moved on.

This year when I was teaching this topic again I was reminded of a paper my thesis advisor had given to me back in 2003 about the application of differential equations to modeling fish populations. I was intrigued by the profusion of models that could be generated by changing the constraints for a given relationship.

Since I didn’t teach integral calculus for another 10 years after I read that paper, I had essentially forgotten most of the equations, formulas and relationships that generated the graphs that had stuck with me. This year, while covering the separable ODEs with their applications, I began to look into the application of these relationships to fish populations and population in general.

I found two great resources that go through the set up of these relationships in a very clear manner, and each of them includes wonderful graphs showing the multiple solutions that result when the same differential relationship is solved with different initial conditions.

The opening section of Robert Borelli and Courtney Coleman’s *Differential Equations: A Modeling Approach* can be read here.

A student project from James Madison University written by Bailey Steinworth, Yuhui Wang and Xing Zhang can be read here.

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