Research in EEB is focused broadly around biodiversity. We investigate interactions within and between levels of biological organization; our study systems span from genes to ecosystems. We integrate experimental, survey, theory, modeling and statistical approaches with a rich tradition of natural history in pursuit of these topics. In particular, we focus on two core areas:
- The evolution and maintenance of biodiversity—documenting biodiversity and exploring the ecological and evolutionary processes that create and sustain biodiversity, from both empirical and theoretical perspectives.
- The future of biodiversity—documenting and exploring the evolution, alteration and degradation of biodiversity in order to conserve and sustain it, and exploring the impacts of biodiversity on ecosystem function and services.
EEB is exceptional among biology departments in a number of ways:
- We have maintained a strong “naturalist tradition” that includes a commitment to organismal biology, to field research, and to field experiences for students. We have a several substantial biological collections including an herbarium with almost 600,000 specimens of vascular plants, bryophytes and fungi and a fish collection with over 450,000 specimens.
- We have a very strong presence in theoretical and quantitative ecology & evolutionary biology. The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) is located on campus and attracts leading researchers in the field from around the world. EEB has a strong link with the institute, with several EEB faculty members also serve as NIMBioS senior personnel, including its founding director.
- Collaborations across the Department are frequent and well-developed; and
- We have top-notch research programs in global change ecology and conservation science that rival any in the world.
EEB is well-equipped for research in these fields. In addition to the biological collections listed above, our facilities include fully-equipped laboratories for DNA sequencing, genetic analysis, molecular ecology, and microbiology; numerous environmental growth chambers and greenhouses; aquatic microcosm facilities; laboratories for behavioral analysis; and computational laboratories. In addition to our on-site facilities, EEB has access to numerous off-site resources. We have a 12-hectare woodlot within the city of Knoxville, the National Environmental Research Park, the Walker Branch Watershed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and of course, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We collaborate with colleagues in other departments at UT (math; earth and planetary sciences; geography; psychology; entomology and plant pathology; forestry, wildlife and fisheries; and microbiology, etc.), Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Tennessee Valley Authority, and more. Collaborations with our affiliates make our department and our research truly interdisciplinary.