Our big goal:
To understand how the interplay between ecological and environmental factors modulates the persistence of life on Earth.
Our research program:
We study the tolerance and response of ecological communities to environmental variations through the lens of structural stability.



New Events

Twitter: @MIT_ecology

- Simone will give a talk in August at ESA 2018, New Orleans
- Chuliang will give a talk in August at ESA 2018, New Orleans
- Andrea will give a talk in August at ESA 2018, New Orleans
- Serguei will talk at the symposium "Predictive Network Ecology" in August at ESA 2018, New Orleans
- Serguei will teach a Theoretical Ecology summer school in late June 20-29 at UNAM, Mexico
- Serguei will participate in June 7-9 at the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna, Austria
- Serguei will give a talk on June 5 at ETH, Zurich


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 [5,6], the trade-offs between productivity and persistence [7], niche partitioning mechanisms [8], the effect of community on the coexistence of multiple competing species [9], the effect of changes of species interactions during successional stages [10], the link between environmental predictability and community structure [11], the fast adaptation of species to changing environments [12], study ecological networks under an environment-dependent context [13], the nonlinear dynamics of communities [14], 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.