J. D. Yeakel bio photo

J. D. Yeakel

Associate professor at UC-Merced;
Former Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute

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Who are we and what do we do?

We are theoretical (paleo)ecologists motivated by the search for generalities shaping and constraining the root ecological mechanisms from which macroevolutionary patterns emerge. To gain a mechanistic understanding into ecological process, we primarily employ theoretical and computational toolkits that allow us to construct a series of hypothetical relationships into a model (the simplicity) from which the dynamical fallout (the complexity) can be compared against nature. While the complexity of such a model can never replicate the complexity of nature, it may cast a silhouette that relates to the natural world. By deploying models that capture these silhouettes from multiple angles, we seek to understand how the constraints operating on individuals within populations, and populations within communities, contribute to the long-term ecological and evolutionary dynamics shaping ecosystems past, present, and future.

Our specific research interests can be categorized into four primary themes that operate on different scales. Threading through each is our interest in understanding how consumer foraging behaviors drive the large-scale dynamics of populations and communities over both ecological and evolutionary time. Because of our focus in theory, we work on a wide variety of systems.

  • What are the ecological constraints that shape individual foraging behaviors?
  • Can ecological processes be used to understand and predict macroevolutionary dynamics?
  • How do individual behaviors influence population dynamics over eco–evolutionary timescales?
  • How does the reticulate nature of species interactions influence the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of communities?