The Institute for Environmental Modeling

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Following is a basic description of the Mathematical and Computational Ecology Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


We have two basic groups of students in our math/computational ecology program. There are those whose interests are coupled to laboratory or fieldwork in ecology, and these students are associated with either the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology or another biological sciences program here (such as Environmental Toxicology or Ethology). There are also students whose main interests are more mathematical in nature, and though they may wish to develop some field or lab expertise, they may complete a purely mathematical piece of research for their degree. Their degree would be in mathematics, though we also have a special option in mathematical ecology in the Ph.D. program in mathemat ics. This option involves coursework in ecology. Another option involves graduate work in Computer Science, as we have active collaborations in several research projects with certain faculty in this Department. We have students at both the Master's and Ph.D. level, and some our students use the non-thesis route for a Master's degree.


The key faculty involved in our program are Lou Gross (research interes ts in plant biology, physiological, behavioral and landscape ecology), Tom Hallam (population and community dynamics, environmental toxicology), and Sergey Gavrilets (evolutionary theory) with additional support from Michael Berry (parallel computation, landscape modeling) and Suzanne Lenhart (optimal control, resource modeling). All the key faculty mentioned above have home appointments based in Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with joint appointments in the Mathematics Department, while Dr. Lenhart is based in Mathematics and Dr. Berry is based in Computer Science. Students also work with a large additional group of theoreticians, including Christine Boake, Jim Drake, Gary McCracken, Sue Riechert and Dan Simberloff in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Yetta Jager and Mac Post at the Environmental Sciences Division of Oak Ridge National Lab. We have one of the largest and, we not so modestly feel, best groups in theoretical ecology in the world. We have a regular weekly seminar series in addition to both long and short term visitors. Our beginning students are generally supported through teaching assistantships, but there is opportunity for support on research grants (including at Oak Ridge) later. Currently we have 10 Ph.D. students working with us, and a few Master's students. For more detail about our research interests, yo u might consult one of the books edited from our group. These include: Mathematical Ecology, edited by T. G. Hallam and S. A. Levin, Applied Mathematical Ecology, edited by S. A. Levin, T. G. Hallam, and L. Gross , both of which are published by Springer-Verlag, and Individual-Based Models and Approaches in Ecology, edited by D. DeAngelis and L. Gross, published by Chapman and Hall.


Please feel free to call or write either Tom Hallam or Lou Gross if you 'd like to discuss our program, or have questions about how your own research interests might be accommodated here. Tom Hallam is at (865)-974-4293 and can be reached via email at Lou Gross is at 865-974-4295 and can be reached via email at


Note that there are a number of other possible grad schools with fine programs in theoretical/mathematical/computational ecology, including Princeton (in Ecology), Stanford (in Biology), UC Davis (in Ecology), Cornell (in Applied Math), Utah (in Math). All these places have at least a critical mass of theoretical/mathematical ecologists, though often they are not in Math Departments.

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Written by: Louis J. Gross
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Last update: December 7, 2001