Professor and Chair
University of Maryland
The interface between basic ecology and applied mathematics is robust, and results from this interface are often critical to effective conservation. In my ISR seminar, I will focus on one part of this interface whereby ecological observations and datasets have created new opportunities for a variety of mathematical tools and approaches. For instance, datasets derived from efforts to track the movements of wild animals (e.g., using GPS-satellite collars) have presented new opportunities to use mathematical approaches for the study of stochastic processes. Examples include applications of semi-variograms, which identify multiple movement modes and solve the sampling rate problem for tracking data, and autocorrelated kernel density estimators, which provide robust approaches for delineating animal ranges. Likewise, concerns about the consequences of global change for the phenology (timing) of biological processes has spawned application of hybrid (discrete – continuous) dynamical systems to studies of species interactions and spatial population dynamics. Together such mathematical applications are revealing relationships among individual movements, landscape dynamics, and ecological processes, strengthening the interdisciplinary bridge linking mathematics, ecology, and conservation.
Bill Fagan is Professor and Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Maryland. He received an Honors B.A. from the University of Delaware (1992), a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington (1996), and then did a postdoc at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. His research, which emphasizes the interplay between data and theory, sits at the interface of mathematics and biology, where he has worked on a wide range of ecological topics with many collaborators from diverse fields. An elected Fellow of both the Ecological Society of America and the AAAS, he also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Presidential Award of the American Society of Naturalists. Over his career, he has worked on a variety of projects in spatial ecology, quantitative conservation biology, and ecological stoichiometry (which focuses on the elemental balances underlying protein evolution, population growth, and species interactions). Currently, his research focuses on mathematical investigations of long-distance animal movement, the role of phenology (biological timing) in species interactions, and the spatial ecology of the human skin microbiome.