Our Research Program:
We study the tolerance and response of ecological communities to environmental variations through the lens of structural stability.


MIT Ecology Meeting January  26th 2018. Registration is now open!  [Flyer]


New Events

Twitter: @MIT_ecology

Owen Petchey will be visiting in November
Stefano Allesina will be visiting and giving a talk on October 26th at our seminar Flyer
Serguei will give a talk on October 18th at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University
Alan Hastings will be visiting and giving a talk on October 11th at MIT
George Sugihara  will be visiting and giving a talk on October 2nd at our seminar. Flyer
Judith Bronstein will be visiting and giving a talk on September 21st at our seminar. Flyer


What is structural ecology?
Structural ecology was born from the integration of structural stability and community ecology.

Structural stability is the stability of the qualitative behavior of a dynamical system against fluctuations of its parameters.
Structural stability is a "natural condition to place upon mathematical models for processes in nature because the conditions under which such processes take place can never be duplicated; therefore, what is observed must be invariant under small perturbations and hence stable" René Thom.

Thus, the question is how much structurally stable an ecological community is to environmental changes (e.g., how much parameter changes can a community tolerate before losing feasibility).

How can interacting species persist under environmental changes?
-Using standard population dynamics models we noticed that the answer to this question (and the contrasting answers to this question) is completely dependent on the parameter values [1]. 
-Given that it is almost virtually impossible to field parameterize these models, we integrated structural stability and community ecology to provide more systematic answers [2,3].
- We have used and developed structural ecology to better understand seasonal changes of species interactions [4], the assembly of ecological communities [5], the trade-offs between productivity and persistence [6], niche partitioning mechanisms [7], the effect of community on the coexistence of multiple competing species [8], the effect of changes of species interactions during successional stages [9], the link between environmental predictability and community structure [10], the fast adaptation of species to changing environments [11], study ecological networks under an environment-dependent context [12], and this list continues growing.

How we do it? Combining mathematical and computational tools with field data.

Why we do it? To estimate future changes in ecological communities and understand their past. To quantify the limits at which ecological communities may no longer mitigate the effects of environmental change.