Mathematics of Life

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A three-day workshop held by the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Mathematics examined the role of dispersal in life and health sciences.

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Students at the College of Arts and Sciences can choose from a variety of different majors and minors, interdisciplinary programs, and numerous dual degree programs in traditional and emerging areas.

The Department of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences held a three-day workshop to share research and examine how the movement and dispersal of organisms affect spatial ecology, environmental science, and epidemiology.

The “Everything Disperses to Miami: The Role of Movement and Dispersal in Spatial Ecology, Epidemiology and Environmental Science” workshop (EDM), held December 14-16, united more than 125 scientists and mathematicians who research dispersal, including many who work to create credible mathematical models of how organisms move through the world. UM has become a global leader in using mathematics and modeling to understand the role of dispersal in ecological systems.

“Your scholarship has broad implications for the future of our planet, helping all of us to anticipate, identify, and address emerging issues of sustainability, biodiversity, human development, and disease,” said Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The workshop featured plenary talks on important current research as well as special sessions on six specific topic areas: epidemiology through the lens of ecology, the evolution of dispersal, non-local dispersal in ecology and epidemiology, the impact of global change in ecology and epidemiology, recent advances in nonlinear analysis and partial differential equations arising from models of biological dispersal, and recent synergies between state-of-the-art empirical and theoretical advances in the study of dispersal.

Featured speakers included Don DeAngelis of UM and the United States Geological Survey; William Fagan of the University of Maryland and National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center; Suzanne Lenhart of the University of Tennessee and National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis; Yuan Lou of the Ohio State University and Mathematical Biosciences Institute; Wei-Ming Ni of the University of Minnesota, East China Normal University, and the Center for Partial Differential Equations at ECNU; and Jianhong Wu of York University and its Centre for Disease Modeling.

“The meeting demonstrated just how broad the scope of inquiry regarding dispersal has become,” said Stephen Cantrell, professor in UM’s Department of Mathematics. “We had participants from both sides of the math-bio interface and all points in between and brought together many folks who otherwise might not have met. Our hope is that new research collaborations integrating mathematics and biology will arise as a result.”

EDM was sponsored by the UM Institute for Theoretical and Mathematical Ecology, the Department of Mathematics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University, and the National Science Foundation.


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