Abstract: The biodiversity of our planet faces unprecedented uncertainty in this era of global change. Because ecological communities are proverbially complex, with innumerable species interacting in so many different ways, detecting the impacts and predicting the consequences of those impacts is a grand challenge of our time. Most existing theory in ecology is built around studying the interactions of at most a handful of species at a given time, while large-scale analyses focus on only species occurrences and the environment, or ignore species interactions entirely. To determine signatures of stability, and the extent to which a community might show resilience to change or recovery from impact (modification, fragmentation, invasion, climate change) requires (1) measurement of interactions among all individuals, species, and the environment, (2) how these change over space and time; and (3) metrics that can describe and encapsulate the complex sets of interactions and the dynamics thereof. We propose to develop a novel approach to measuring and understanding change in whole-ecosystem communities by bringing together two emerging areas: ecological network theory and big data ecology, in concert with the growing availability of genomics, remote sensing from satellites to microsensors & drones, and other emerging data sources.
I’m an ecologist working on problems in ecological forecasting and decision theory. The rapid expansion in both computational power and available ecological and environmental data enables and requires new mathematical and statistical approaches to these questions as well as new tools for handling heterogeneous, incomplete, and rapidly evolving datasets. Ecology has much to learn about what is and isn’t useful from advances in informatics, computer science, and statistics for the challenges we face. My research blends theoretical investigation with the creation of software tools to use and test these concepts in ecological questions.
I am a co-founder of the rOpenSci project and a science adviser to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). More information can be found on my website, including my an open lab notebook.