PhD project: The Physics of Ecosystems

Project description

Ecosystems, in which different populations grow and interact, are complex dynamical systems where the techniques of statistical and computational physics can greatly improve our understanding. Physicists have already made important contributions in this area, by developing simple model systems, most famously for predator-prey (Lotka-Volterra dynamics). However many questions remain, including: “what factors can promote cooperative rather than competitive interactions between species?”, “what generates and maintains the diversity of species that we observe in nature?” and “how sensitive are the dynamics of ecosystems to small perturbations?”.

In this project, we will develop and analyse simple ecosystem models, in order to address these questions. The project will involve computer simulations but could also have the potential for analytical theory. The balance between simulations and theory can be adjusted depending on the preference of the student. A particularly exciting aspect of the project is that it has the potential for close interactions with experimental work on real microbial ecosystems which is going on in the Schools of Physics and Biology in Edinburgh.

Project supervisor

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