Program on Mathematical and Statistical Ecology Working Group – Physical Ecology of Organism Mixing and Dispersal in Fluids

Group leaders

Laura Miller


The goal of this working group will be to develop mathematical and statistical frameworks for modeling the physical aspects of dispersal, such as the aerodynamics of wind dispersal of seeds and the swimming mechanics of larva, into population models. In air, tiny insects, spiders, and seeds are dispersed by local flow patterns but can also bias their distributions by timing their release and actively controlling some aspects of their locomotion. In water, larval organisms are dispersed by local currents but can also bias their distributions by actively moving up or down in the water column. In terms of ecology, these resulting dispersal patterns can have a significant effect on the probability of mating, the ability to find adequate nutrient sources, and the overall success of the organism. In terms of mathematics, these problems present challenges in computational fluid dynamics and multiscale modeling since the organism behavior and biophysics must be accurately modeled on a small spatial scale while complicated flow patterns must also be accurately resolved on a geophysical scale. These problems also present challenging statistical questions such as accurate description of local weather patterns and testing model results against experimental data.

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