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Occam's razor and models of ecological complexity

Friday 10 February 2012, 1.15PM

Speaker(s): Dr Jon Pitchford, YCCSA and Departments of Biology and Mathematics, University of York

YCCSA Interdisciplinary Seminar


An explosion of pollinator diversity on Earth accompanied the evolution of flowering plants, but surprisingly little is known about the mathematical and ecological “rules” that permit plants and their pollinators to co-exist. Could these rules help us understand similar patterns found where different components of a system work together, generating reciprocal benefits, from sub-cellular to social and economic networks? Previous attempts to answer this question, using complicated mathematics and supercomputers, disguised simpler and ecologically-meaningful patterns and mechanisms. In the models we present, simply counting the number of partners a species interacts with is a reliable predictor of biodiversity. This shifts the emphasis away from performing endless computations built on mathematical idealisations, and towards a more careful look at the biological detail structuring the natural world.




Location: RCH/204, Ron Cooke Hub, Heslington East