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Postdoc, University of Chicago


The study of how ecological systems interact and change in space and time

Ecological systems are complex: the contain many organisms which interact in multiple ways. Predator-prey, parasitism and mutualism are just a few examples. A bee which pollinates a flower is also a prey of spiders. Ecological systems are also dynamic and constantly change in space and time. These multiple dimensions are particularly challenging and require adequate mathematical frameworks which consider all the components of the system, and their interactions. Therefore, in the past 3 decades, the study of networks has been a fundamental component of population and community ecology. But ecological networks have been typically studied in isolation – that is, they involve a single type of interaction or represent a particular community that is not connected to others. Recent advances in the field of multilayer networks in network science, together with an increase in the availability of adequate ecological data, now provide an exciting opportunity for ecologists to move beyond studies of isolated networks. This direction entails an explicit integration of multilayer networks into network ecology. Ecological multilayer networks enable us to explore how complex ecological systems interact (what is the effect of bee predation for the population of the flower?), as well as their intrinsic dynamics. They also enable us to explore multiple levels: from the gene to the ecosystem. In this emerging field, ecologists aim to explore ecological variation across interconnected ecological networks such as those interconnected in space, time, or involving several interaction types. Of particular importance is to understand how highly-dimensinoal ecological systems respond to perturbations: from antibiotics in bacterial communities to human interference in large-scale ecosystems.