To understand the intricacies of an ecosystem’s interconnectedness — the many types of interactions among species, between a species and its environment, and the impact of various human impacts — we need the tools of network science. One early-career researcher leading the way in both theoretical insights and real-world observations is SFI External Professor Sonia Kéfi (CNRS).
This week, Kéfi was awarded the Erdős-Renyi Prize “for foundational and empirically grounded theoretical research that has advanced network science and its applications in ecology, with a focus on multiple types of interactions among species and the implications for global change, opening the path to new ways to study ecosystems.”
Each year, the Network Science Society (NetSci) awards one young scientist (40 years old or younger) the Erdős-Renyi Prize for accomplishments in network science.
“Kéfi has been a powerful, independent thinker throughout her career,” says SFI VP for Science Jennifer Dunne. Her work takes a comprehensive approach to understanding the networks of multiple types of species interactions — including predator /prey relationships, but also non-feeding interactions like habitat modification and competition for resources — as well as the many synergistic human-caused impacts on ecosystems, from climate change to deforestation.
“Until Kéfi’s work, we have had no synthetic, empirically-grounded body of ecological theory that embraced the actual complexity of ecosystems to predict which communities are the most at risk of becoming degraded in the face of current and future perturbations,” says Dunne. “The combination of her independent and sharp mind and her vision for identifying and tenaciously pursuing important questions at the frontiers of network science and ecology makes her a powerhouse and a leader of her generation in both areas of inquiry.”