Memorial to host lecture in mathematical ecology

Jul 14th, 2013

Kelly Foss

Dr. Simon Levin
Memorial to host lecture in mathematical ecology

Memorial University will play host to the 2013 Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (AARMS) Mathematical Biology Workshop from July 27-29.

As part of the conference, which will bring researchers to Memorial from Canada, the United States and around the world, the university will offer a public lecture with Dr. Simon Levin of Princeton University.

Titled Challenges in Mathematical Ecology: Scaling and Collective Phenomena, Dr. Levin will discuss the subject of mathematical ecology, one of the oldest in mathematical biology.

“It has its formal roots a century ago in the work of the great mathematician Vito Volterra, with links, some long before, to demography, epidemiology and genetics,” said Dr. Levin.

Dr. Levin will discuss a classical challenge, which has been in understanding how to use our knowledge of processes operating at small scales to answer big picture questions. In recent years, the scope of interdisciplinary research that integrates a broad array of scales has increased dramatically.

“Metagenomic studies have provided vast stores of information on the microscopic level, which cry out for methods to allow scaling to the macroscopic level of ecosystems, and for understanding biogeochemical cycles and broad ecosystem patterns as emergent phenomena; indeed, global change has pushed that mandate well beyond the ecosystem to the level of the biosphere,” he said.

Similarly, the study of collective phenomena, from the formation of biofilms to the dynamics of vertebrate flocks and schools to collective decision-making in human populations poses important and exciting opportunities for mathematicians and physicists to shed light.

“From behavioral and evolutionary perspectives, these collectives display conflict of purpose or fitness across levels, leading to game-theoretic problems in understanding how cooperation emerges in Nature, and how it might be realized in dealing with problems of the Global Commons.”

Dr. Levin’s lecture will weave these topics together, survey recent work, and offer challenges for how mathematics can contribute to open problems.

Dr. Levin is the George M. Moffett Professor of Biology with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. A founding director of the Princeton Environmental Institute, he holds many major international prizes such as the A.H. Heineken Price for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences from the Inamori Foundation and the Margalef Prize from the Government of Caledonia.

He is also a member of a number of honourary societies including being a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. 

His lecture will take place Sunday, July 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, Room IIC-2001.


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