Student Project: Solving the puzzle of community ecology (Staniczenko Lab)

Do you like puzzles? Are you curious about how communities form? Can you code?
If so, this might be the project for you…

I am looking for a student to help develop a new mathematical and computational framework for extracting information from ecological network data on how communities assemble.

Community ecology is a puzzle with many rules but only one objective: optimize the survival and reproduction of component species. An ecological network describes the pattern of interactions among species in a community by representing species as nodes and biotic interactions like feeding, parasitism, competition, pollination, and seed dispersal as links between nodes. For decades, ecologists have sought to decode the rules that species cannot help but follow, but fully categorizing all of the features that shape the composition and structure of a community is an enormous challenge. We propose to tackle the problem from the opposite end of the theoretical spectrum—rather than asking how interacting species give rise to community structure, we ask: how much can we learn by reimagining community structure as a puzzle being solved by Nature itself?
To answer this question, we take inspiration from Japanese number puzzles, video games, and recent advances in applied mathematics and computer science.

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