James Drake


1985 – Ph.D., Purdue University

Research Interests

My research interests are varied but largely conceptual and synthetic focusing on the nature of ecological complexity. Using both theory and experiment, I examine one of the most complex of all systems in nature–the ecological community. How does one tackle such a creature? By taking the structure apart and reassembling it in space and time. In so doing, I have espied rich and varied mechanisms and processes which are responsible for the shape of nature. For example, I have experimentally mapped an assembly landscape which defines plausible, transient, and forbidden community structures—essentially providing a roadmap of possible structures in space and time. Significant components of this structural map are self-organization and the emergence of varied properties and higher-order structures. These are the mechanisms of ecology and permit the operation of things like competition and predation as we observe in nature.

I also have research interests in a variety of allied areas, including: biological invasions, hierarchical control, time series, and general theories of everything. My students and post-docs have worked on a wide variety of topics such as microbial ecology, phenotypic plasticity, community assembly, ecosystem dynamics, exotic species, complex systems dynamics, chaos, and risk analysis.