Andrew Dobson

External Professor

Andy Dobson was born in London and moved to live in Scotland before starting school.  He spent the next fifteen years becoming a keen birdwatcher and bibliophile.  He commuted daily from a small village on the edge of the Highlands to Glasgow High School.  His family moved to Essex in 1970 and he completed school at King Edwards VI Grammar School, Chelmsford where he spent a lot of time measuring a museum collection of bird eggs and trying to quantify changes in their shape and size.  

He went to Imperial College, London University as a Botanist and emerged as a Zoologist in 1976, he then went to Oxford to for his PhD on “The Mortality Rates of British Birds”.  During his time as a graduate student, he worked as a sous-Chef at the Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant, this generated a lifetime interest in food and its production.  He was then a post-doc back at Imperial with Roy Anderson working on the population dynamics of host-parasite relationships, work which led him to Princeton to work on combinations of all of the above with Bob May. He was hired at the University of Rochester in 1987 and after three years returned to Princeton in 1990, he’s lived there as a member of the Ecology and Evolution faculty ever since.  

Andy’s research focuses on the role that infectious diseases play in the dynamics of wild animal and plant populations and how this modifies the structure of food webs.  Thinking about how to develop mathematical models for these problems takes him to Serengeti, Yellowstone, Panama and along the coast of California.  He also works on assorted problems in conservation biology and models for animal social systems and how these interact with the dynamics of different pathogens.  This work is based on the wolf population in Yellowstone, but gains insights from the lion studies in Serengeti and a long-term fascination with primate social systems. Andy has published and edited several books: “Conservation and Biodiversity”, “Population Dynamics of Diseases in Natural Populations”, and “Unsolved Problems in Ecology.”   He has been an external Faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute since 2011.  Increasingly his time there will be spent writing a series of books that provide introductions to the scientific systems he has studied: “Serengeti Lives”, “Parasite Lives”, “Yellowstone Lives”.  He is part of the SFI “Arrow of Time” working group that is examining “Timescales and Immunity”.

Primary Institution: Princeton University

Role/Title: Professor

Topics of Interest: Behavior - Biology - Environment/Climate Change - Evolution - Health - Scaling - Time - Infectious Disease

Other Affiliations and Institutions: A.D. White Professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York Professor of Sustainable Development, IMeRA, Universite Aix-Marseille, France

How SFI changes your mind: Every time I visit my mind is expanded and I learn new things that generate new ideas and insights

When and how you first got involved with SFI: First came to a workshop on Food Webs in the 2010's

Favorite Book: EIther "An Omlette and a Glass of Wine" by Elizabeth David or "The Songlines" by Brice Chatwin.

Favorite Film: Cinema Paradiso