Photo: Dried cod, Norway, courtesy of Anne Maria Eikeset.
Levin Lab - Research Interests
Simon A. Levin, Director
James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
My research interests have been in complexity, and in understanding how macroscopic patterns and processes are maintained at the level of ecosystems and the biosphere, in terms of ecological, behavioral, and evolutionary mechanisms that operate primarily at the level of the organisms. In recent years, I have turned my attention to the parallels between ecological systems and financial and economic systems, particularaly with regard to what makes them vulnerable to collapse, and to the evolution and development of structure and organization. Of particular interest to me are discounting, intergenerational and intragenerational equity, cooperation and social norms. I have been especially interested in the management of public goods and common-pool resources. Much of my ecological research is concerned with the evolution of diversification, the mechanisms sustaining biological diversity in natural systems, and the implications for ecosystem structure and functioning. The work integrates empirical studies and mathematical modeling, with emphasis upon how to extrapolate across scales of space, time, and organizational complexity. The essential mathematical challenge is the development of macroscopic descriptions for the collective behavior of large and heterogeneous ensembles that are subject to continual evolutionary modification. Specific attention is directed to the evolution and ecology of collective behavior, from the movements of flocks of birds and schools of fish to human decision-making. Current ecological systems of study include plant communities, as well as marine open-ocean and intertidal systems. In related work, I have been interested in the dynamics of infectious diseases, and in particular in the self-organization of strain structure in influenza A, and in the dynamics of antibiotic resistance. In addition, I have been involved in issues of sustainable development, with emphasis on the linkages between environmental and socio-economic systems. My book, Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons, is an introduction to my view of the issues underlying the dynamics and management of ecological systems, with broad analogies to socioeconomic systems.
Lab Members
(in alphabetical order)
Charlotte Chang
GS (co-advisor David Wilcove)
Synergistic effects of bird harvest and fragmentation in Southeast Asia.
Daniel Cooney
I am interested
in using PDEs and probability theory to describe how interactions between individuals lead to interesting emergent dynamics at the population level in models of evolution, epidemics, and social systems.
Sarah Drohan
GS (PACM; co-advisor Bryan Grenfell)
I am interested in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases, and in particular the dynamics of vaccination and spatial spread for acute, immunizing childhood infections.
Bernat Guillen
GS (PACM; co-advisor Charles Fefferman)
I am interested in trying to find understandable, usable meaning in data. More precisely, I am interested in applying Topological Data Analysis, Manifold reconstruction and function interpolation techniques to problems that arise in evolutionary biology and complex networks where our information is, at best, unreliable.
George Hagstrom
Dynamics and diversity of marine ecosystems, collective behavior, kinetic and fluid descriptions of animal aggregates, active media, interactions between the climate and the oceans, theoretical ecology, applied mathematics.
Rutwik Kharkar
Very generally, I am interested in how to incentivize people to do conservation. More specifically, I want to look at whether ecosystem services can be used as biodiversity conservation tools. Humans depend on natural ecosystems for a number of vitally important services, such as pollination, pest control, and water purification. While recent research suggests that biodiversity might not be very important in protecting these and other services, I want to study how projecting these services might in turn maintain or even enhance biodiversity. I am also broadly interested in dynamical systems and how small or large perturbations to these systems affect their equilibrium points.
Simon Leblanc
GS (PACM, co-advisor Iain Couzin)
Collective behavior of animal groups; information transfer in networks; finding efficient ways of communicating through local interactions in a large network by understanding how it is done in nature
Wenying Liao
Biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology, with a focus on applying empirical and theoretical methods to develop an understanding of the nitrogen cycle in terrestrial econsystems.
Lisa McManus
Connectivity of coral reef ecosystems; larval recruitment and disease transmission dynamics in corals; coral reef biodiversity; marine reserve design.
Mayank Misra
GS (STEP Program)
I am a lawyer and policy practitioner with a background in socio-economic rights and civil liberties. I am interested in the effects of legal rights stuctures on ecological systems, societal and resource dynamics, and common pool resource problems.
Chai Molina
Chai studies how differences between countries and the relationships between them affect the coalitions forming in international environmental agreements, and the gains these coalitions can achieve. [Collaboration with Erol Akcay (University of Pennsylvania), Ulf Dieckmann (IIASA), and Elena Rovenskaya (IIASA).] He is also interested in evolutionary theory and in infectious disease modelling.
Dylan Morris
Zoonotic disease, theories of cooperation, and mathematical and statistical modeling.
Elise Myers
GS (Columbia University)
Liliana Salvador
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate
My interests involve understanding infectious diseases dynamics, animal movement and spatial ecology. I use a combination of data analysis and computer simulations to understand bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) transmission dynamics. I am particularly interested in the study of how new infected areas arise from animal movement patterns (of both livestock and wildlife) and in the improvement of disease surveillance systems. More recently, I have been focusing on the comparative analysis of genomic pathogen data (WGS) to understand the underlying evolutionary processes of bacterial epidemics in different animal species.
Fernando P. Santos
Visiting Student Research Collaborator (University of Lisbon)
Fernando is a PhD student at the University of Lisbon. His research work is focused on the development of computational models to simulate and understand collective dynamics, specifically in what concerns the evolution of non-trivial behaviors such as cooperation and fairness. He has been working on: 1. the role played by social norms and reputation systems in the evolution of cooperation; 2. the emergence of fairness in games involving groups; and 3. the dynamics of strategic interactions that involve multiple sectors of a society.
Edward Schrom
GS (co-advisor Andrea Graham)
The interface of evolution, ecology, and immunology.
Alex Stewart
Visiting Faculty (University College London)
Edward Tekwa
Postdoc (Co-supervised with Malin Pinsky, Rutgers University)
Cooperation can lead to sustainable resource use but is not the only possible outcome. Using evolutionary models, I investigate how global fisheries can attain very different harvest rates and sustainability outcomes depending on opportunity cost. Nevertheless, cooperation can help steer fisheries towards sustainability, as has been documented in Ostrom's work. By drawing connections between Ostrom's anthropological studies with different evolutionary game mechanisms, I evaluate the importance of multiple paths to cooperation. More relevant to management, I am interested in how early warning signals of regime shifts in fisheries should change the optimal consumption path.
Andrew Tilman
Using methods from ecology and economics to understand cooperation; the evolution of decision-making mechanisms; the role of complexity on the robustness of cooperation in the commons.
Anieke Van Leeuwen
I study mathematical models for population dynamics of interacting species to analyze the interplay between ecosystem structure and fisheries yield, population size structure and parasite prevalence, and energy allocation and immume responses. I use size-structured population modeling techniques and dynamic energy budget approaches to find out how low-level processes (in individual organisms) underlie high-level patterns (of populations and ecosystems).
Vitor Vasconcelos
My main work concerns the problems of emergence and sustainability of Cooperation and the tools used therein.
Talia Young
I have two primary research interests: (a) how to better understand and support resilience in fishing communities in the face of changing environments and markets, and (b) how aquatic trophic interactions among predators (illuminated through chemical tracer analysis such as stable isotopes and fatty acids) can help us improve our understanding, management, and conservation of aquatic species and ecosystems. At Princeton, my research focuses specifically on the ecological, economic, and social effects of US community-supported fishery (CSF) programs. I used to teach high school science and continue to work to engage young people (especially students of color and those who are first in their families to go to college) in research biology.
Lei Zhou
Visiting Student Research Collaborator (Peking University)
I am interested in the dynamics of complex networks, especially the evolution of cooperation in multi-player games (e.g., the public goods game). I want to know under what conditions cooperation could emerge and be maintained. Presently, I am focusing on applying evolutionary game theory to ecology, especially for the issue of sustainability.