Mechanistic insight in ecology and the environment has traditionally lagged other biological disciplines, owing to the vast complexity of ecosystems and the large spatial and temporal scales across which ecological dynamics play out. However, this is changing rapidly: enhanced computational power and emerging technologies are increasingly enabling fresh tests of classic models and stimulating the development of novel theory, promising that the 21st century will be one of transformative advance in this field. The proud legacy of ecological research at Princeton is marked by the coupling of mathematical, experimental, and synthetic approaches, with the goal of developing a theory of ecological systems across scales, from molecules to organisms to the biosphere. Global change, declining biodiversity, and the goal of achieving sustainability in natural-resource use motivate much of this work, reflected in major efforts to assess the responses of ecosystems to climate change and species loss, improve reserve design and other aspects of conservation strategy, manage emerging infectious diseases, and quantify the value of ecosystem services.
Interactions between co-occurring organisms, such as competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism, play a major role in regulating biodiversity, biogeography, and ecosystem processes. At Princeton, we combine diverse theoretical, laboratory, and field-based approaches to overcome historical limitations on our ability to understand these complex interactions and how they shape the world around us.
What mechanisms enable populations of different species to coexist? Why do some environments host many species and others few? And what factors, human-caused and otherwise, cause populations to decline and go extinct? Our faculty carry on a long tradition of research at Princeton aimed at answering these questions, which are central to understanding both the history and future of life on Earth.
Ecosystems consist of living organisms and their nonliving environments, and these elements are dynamically stitched together by fluxes of energy and nutrients. By accounting for these flows in a holistic manner that unifies both the biotic and abiotic environment, we seek to solve pressing mysteries such as the limitations on productivity, the factors that govern climate change, and ….