Department of
Biological Sciences

Adaptations and ecology

We aim to use systems thinking to enforce consistency in the understanding of how the living world operates, which requires a holistic view of how organisms have evolved in their environment. This is a wicked problem because it starts with the environment, requires integration of multiple disciplines, considers interactions between a multitude of species, and addresses complex phenomena with limited data.

Our approach is to combine systems dynamics with rich environments and evolutionary thinking in numerical models. This allows us to replace verbal arguments with more rigorous analysis. We strive to communicate pedagogically, and we celebrate whenever our conventional thinking has been wrong.

Often we develop models that represent the inner workings of organisms and the mechanisms of their relationship with the external environment, and use evolutionary algorithms or mass balance to predict adaptations and their effects. This enables us to fill in missing functions and parameters, thus arriving at new hypotheses for critical testing.


Research themes and projects

We have pushed some research themes for decades, while some are newer. Below you find topics we care for and some of our current projects. Current project: From terrestrial greening to coastal darkening
Is it possible that a warmer taiga in Russia, Swedish urbanisation policy, or tree planting in Eastern Europe can influence the timing of phyoplankton blooms or fish spawning? through the RCN project A green-blue link made browner: how terrestrial climate change affects marine ecology (2019-), we will spend the next few years investigating a series of ecological links that might explain such curious connections.
Research theme: Bringing a digital fish to life
Most models in ecology are strongly influenced by Occam's razor, which in modern science means that models and theories shall be as simple as possible. We have, however, also tried to move in the opposite direction, by modelling and putting together several aspects of how it is to be a fish, as detailed and realistic as possible. One goal is to have so rich models that model simulations may replace experiments on live fish.
Current project: How can fisheries contribute more to a sustainable future?
The ocean harbours half the global primary production but produces only 2% of human food and 6% of dietary protein. This project takes a step back, and together with key stakeholders considers fisheries as a food system and reimagines their role when the SGDs, the Paris Agreement, and the Convention on Biological Diversity are allowed to define the objective as maximizing food production while minimizing footprint.
Current project: Hypoxia on tropical coral reefs
This project will embrace theoretical and empirical work integrating ecology, physiology and behaviour within life history to better our understanding of the role of hypoxia in the heat of the night in coral reef ecosystems.
Research theme: Trait-based Marine Ecosystem Models
Traditionally, ecosystem models represent a few important groups of organisms. In trait-based models organisms are characterised as continuums of traits, and winners emerge from a process resembling natural selection.
Research theme: Evolution of Mating Systems
How may mating strategies affect parental investment and cooperation? Using theoretical models of common ecological mechanisms we study how extra-pair mating may trigger male-male cooperation in predator defence and sharing of resources. This provides an adaptive explanation for female promiscuity and a new hypothesis for the evolution of cooperation.

Webmaster:  Christian Jørgensen.