Since at least the time of Darwin biologists have searched for a simple set of universal governing mechanisms that dictate the dynamics of biodiversity. While much progress has been made in understanding system-specific processes and in documenting the context-dependent roles of such mechanisms as competition and facilitation in regulating the diversity of life, we still lack a universal governing rule set. The goal of understanding and predicting biodiversity dynamics comes at a critical moment when human systems are disrupting those very dynamics.
In his research, Andy approaches this long-standing problem with the hypothesis that general patterns in biodiversity, such as characteristic shapes of the distributions of population sizes across species and species across geographic space, emerge from a combination of the statistical mechanics of large systems and the unique non-equilibrium dynamics imparted to biological systems by their evolutionary history. Statistical mechanics provides the key analytical approaches to abstracting the complex details of biodiversity into general macroscopic predictions, while deviations from the simplest statistical mechanics of biodiversity reveal the key role of biological evolution in driving systems away from the idealized steady state predicted by statistical mechanics. Andy uses a combination of theory, open source computational methods development, and novel "natural experiments" in rapidly evolving ecosystems to capture statistical and evolutionary dynamics across the tree of life.
Before joining SFI, Andy worked as a postdoctoral scholar with the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology. He holds a Ph.D. in environmental science, policy and management from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in biological sciences from Stanford University.