We study life in context. Our research aims to answer fundamental questions that address national needs related to sustainable biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human and animal health and welfare. We focus on developing an integrative understanding of how complex biological systems develop, function, interact and evolve in a complex and changing world. Our vision is based on the proposition that by examining biological phenomena at all levels of the hierarchy of life in their ecological and evolutionary contexts, we can identify more meaningful questions and develop more meaningful answers. We work across the entire tree of life at all levels of biological organization, ranging from molecules to global ecosystems, over time scales ranging from milliseconds to millennia.

Our directory provide general descriptions of the diverse research initiatives. A more vivid and dynamic picture can be seen from the news stories posted on our home page, news page, and abstracted below. Feel free to contact any of us for more information.


Phytoplankton May Not Be as Resilient to Changes in Ocean Temperature

Phytoplankton, microscopic photosynthetic organisms floating in oceans and lakes, are responsible for half of all oxygen production on earth. Many scientists may also have been taking these single-celled organisms for granted by assuming that their large population sizes and short generation times will allow them to readily adapt to increases in ocean temperature. In a recent study, María Aranguren-Gassis and a team led by Elena Litchman questioned this widely held belief that evolution will rescue phytoplankton species from changes in climate.

Bird Bacteria is Key to Communication and Mating

Birds use odor to identify other birds. Danielle Whittakers and her colleagues have shown that if the bacteria that produce the odor is altered, it could negatively impact a bird’s ability to communicate with other birds or find a mate.

Jason Gallant Uses NSF Grant to Explore Variation in Electric Fish Shock Duration

The electric pulses emitted by electric fish can be quite variable in their duration: and as it turns out the reason can be quite “shocking.” Jason Gallant has received a three-year, $680,000 National Science Foundation grant to continue work on a discovery that this variation may be due to unusual changes in a common protein called a potassium channel.