Justin D. Yeakel bio photo

Justin D. Yeakel

Assistant professor at UC-Merced; Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute

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What we do

What we do

Our group is generally interested in the physical and biological constraints that shape trophic interactions, and how changes in these interactions impact community dynamics over both ecological and evolutionary time. We employ both theoretical as well as empirical approaches to address many different aspects of problems that fall within this central focus, including but not limited to:

  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • Stochastic processes
  • Dynamic programming
  • Stable isotopes
  • Historical records
  • Paleontological data

Who we are

Principle Investigator

Justin D. Yeakel: "In a nutshell, I am fascinated by the ecological and physiological constraints that drive trophic interactions between species, and how such interactions trickle up to impact populations and communities over large spatial and temporal scales."



Postdoctoral Researchers

Jean-Philippe Gibert, McDonnell Fellow "I study how phenotypic variation affects the structure and dynamics of complex food webs and how this effect is mediated by environmental factors such as temperature. To do so, I integrate information across systems and taxa and often combine mathematical, computational and empirical tools."




Graduate Researchers

Ritwika VPS "I joined UC Merced as a physics grad student in Fall 2015. I have long been interested in the scope of using physics to solve problems in ecology and evolutionary biology, hence my interest in the Yeakel lab. Currently, I work on an eclectic collection of problems which includes looking at vocalisation in human infants as an acoustic foraging process, studying the dynamics of a population of foragers given a choice of strategies, and looking at the collective motion of phototactic bacteria."

Taran Rallings "I am interested in how we set conservation baselines. I want to use modelling, food web theory, and paleocology to compare modern and historical communities with an eye to conservation and restoration. This includes questions of how to best restore food webs to early baselines - the usefulness of ecological surrogates and de-extinction, stabilizing reintroduction orders, etc. This information may help us make better decisions about existing projects like Pleistocene Park and help structure future rewilding attempts."



Undergraduate Researchers

Harrison Duran "I am interested in studying ecology and the dynamics between systems in order to develop a greater understanding of humanity's impact on the environment. I gather information on mammal morphology in order to find correlations between certain morphological traits and diets"



Lab Alumni

John (Jack) Hopkins III Assistant Professor, Unity College ME "I primarily conduct empirical field-based research that uses a variety of sampling methods and quantitative approaches to investigate the effects of environmental change on species interactions, wildlife-habitat relationships, and the foraging behavior and nutrition of free-ranging mammals."