ResearchLevinLab
Photo: Levin Lab graduate Nicolas Choquette-Levy (Ph.D., 2022) on the right with Nepalese farmers (2022). Photo courtsey of Nicolas Choquette-Levy.
 
Levin Lab Research Interests
 
SIMON A. LEVIN, Director
James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
My research interests have been in complexity, and in understanding how macroscopic patterns and processes are maintained at the level of ecosystems and the biosphere, in terms of ecological, behavioral, and evolutionary mechanisms that operate primarily at the level of the organisms. In recent years, I have turned my attention to the parallels between ecological systems and financial and economic systems, particularly with regard to what makes them vulnerable to collapse, and to the evolution and development of structure and organization. Of particular interest to me are discounting, intergenerational and intragenerational equity, cooperation and social norms. I have been especially interested in the management of public goods and common-pool resources. Much of my ecological research is concerned with the evolution of diversification, the mechanisms sustaining biological diversity in natural systems, and the implications for ecosystem structure and functioning. The work integrates empirical studies and mathematical modeling, with emphasis upon how to extrapolate across scales of space, time, and organizational complexity. The essential mathematical challenge is the development of macroscopic descriptions for the collective behavior of large and heterogeneous ensembles that are subject to continual evolutionary modification. Specific attention is directed to the evolution and ecology of collective behavior, from the movements of flocks of birds and schools of fish to human decision-making. Current ecological systems of study include plant communities, as well as marine open-ocean and intertidal systems. In related work, I have been interested in the dynamics of infectious diseases, and in particular in the self-organization of strain structure in influenza A, and in the dynamics of antibiotic resistance. In addition, I have been involved in issues of sustainable development, with emphasis on the linkages between environmental and socio-economic systems. My book, Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons, is an introduction to my view of the issues underlying the dynamics and management of ecological systems, with broad analogies to socioeconomic systems.
 
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Former Visiting Scholars to the Levin Lab
 
Former Levin Lab Undergraduate Students
 
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Levin Lab Members 2024
(in alphabetical order)
 
To read more about Levin Lab Members, click here.
 
Talia Borofsky
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI (co-advisor Dan Rubenstein)
I am broadly interested in the evolutionary ecology of cooperative behavior. My postdoctoral research, conducted jointly at Princeton (with Simon A. Levin) and at Hebrew University (with Gili Greenbaum) studies: (1) how cooperative behaviors construct ecological niches in which other cooperative behaviors may evolve, and (2) how the evolution of these behaviors influences local ecosystems.
 
Matthew Cheung
GS, PACM
Matthew is interested in the interplay between human behavior/opinions and the dynamics of wealth in socioeconomic systems. This involves incorporating heterogeneity and aspects of human behavior, such as pro-social preferences and discounting, into models in ecological economics. His current research explores a dynastic model for intergenerational resource transfers under certain conditions, and the implications for inequality.
 
Stefani Crabtree
Visiting Research Scholar
Assistant Professor, Utah State University; ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems Fellow, Santa Fe Institute

Stefani's research applies complex systems science modeling methodologies (such as agent-based modeling and network science) to problems in social science and ecology. Current research topics include the human place in ecosystems worldwide, the ability to use the archaeological past to calibrate our understanding of human resilience, and the feedbacks between ecosystem health and human health.
 
Guillaume Falmagne
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI
My Ph.D. focused on experimental and phenomenological studies of the quark-gluon plasma. I am now interested in critical transitions in socio-ecological systems, including collective behavior, emerging phenomena, early warning signals, and the influence of structure on transitions. To these goals, I use insiights from high energy physics, statistical physics, and big data/machine learning analysis.
 
Giuseppe M. Ferro
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, HMEI
Developing models of individual decision-making in risky and ambiguous choices, with a special interest in a range of applications of decision-theory, ranging from microeconomics and finance to management and organization science; expanding previous work to evolutionary models of collective human behavior.
 
Ari Freedman
GS, EEB
I am interested in studying the evolution of virulence in infectious diseases, and its consequences for disease control and ecosystem function.
 
Theo Gibbs
GS, QCB (co-advisor Jonathan Levine)
I am interested in how species interactions allow diverse ecosystems to assemble and stably coexist. I aim to identify the mechanisms of species coexistence by using mathematical models to understand experimental data from plant and microbial communities.
 
George Hagstrom
Professional Specialist, EEB
Dynamics and diversity of marine ecosystems, collective behavior, kinetic and fluid descriptions of animal aggregates, active media, interactions between the climate and the oceans, theoretical ecology, applied mathematics.
 
Anna Jacobson
GS, QCB (co-advisor Steve Pacala)
I am interested in climate change and environmental modelling. I plan on using my computational skillset to help answer questions about the path to net-zero emissions in the United State and worldwide.
 
Victoria Junquera
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI (co-advisors Dan Rubenstein and Miguel Centeno)
I study agricultural expansion from the perspectives of various actors and institutions (e.g., producers, distributors, policies, infrastructure, markets) to understand crop expansion dynamics and its socio-ecological impacts, including the distribution of risk and benefits. I am also interested in understanding markets and their influence on natural resource use decisions. I use mixed-methods analysis as well as methodological tools and concepts from the fields of complex systems and socio-ecological resilience.
 
Jiayu Li
GS, PACM
I am interested in understanding ecosystems with mathematical models.
 
Yimei Li
GS, QCB (co-advisors Bryan Grenfell and A.J. te Velthuis)
I study mathematical models for the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, especially the dynamics at cross-scales.
 
Nusrat Molla
Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Andlinger Center (co-advisor Elke Weber)
I use mathematical and computational modeling, sometimes in conjunction with qualitative methods, to explore how the social relations and institutions that shape how people use and benefit from natural resources shape both system-level and differentiated responses to change. I am particularaly interested in how communities reliant on extractive industries can transition towards more sustainable and equitable livelihoods and forms of production.
 
Maximilian Nguyen
GS, QCB
Ranging from the scale of individuals in a social system down to groups of molecules. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms by which structure emerges in complex networks.

 
Woi Sok Oh
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI (co-advisor Dan Rubenstein)
I am interested in connecting the dynamics of humans, nature, infrastructure, and institutions as coupled natural-human systems (CNHSs). I particularly focus on understanding migration patterns and managing the system sustainably.
 
Denis Patterson
Visiting Research Scholar, HMEI
Assistant Professor, Durham University, Department of Mathematical Sciences

I work at the intersection of dynamical systems, stochastics and a number of application areas, namely ecology, neuroscience and development (how organisms grow and evolve). My work involves collaboration with researchers in other disciplines to design realistic mathematical models and mathematical analysis to understand the structure and predictions of these models.
 
Saverio Perri
Visiting Research Scholar, HMEI
Applied Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow, Santa Fe Institute

I am interested in food systems and coupled human-natural systems. My work on food systems aims at characterizing the trade-offs and synergies within the global food system. The main goals consist of quantifying the extent to which global crop production is limited by biophysical constraints such as salinity and aridity, assessing the environmental consequences of these limitations, and ultimately identifying possible pathways of sustainable change. Within the framework of coupled human-natural systems, I am investigating the socio-political feedback on climate change mitigation actions. In particular, I am exploring the complex interactions between policy, technology, and societal norms that shape the adoption and diffusion of sustainable practices and technologies using a combination of quantitative and qualitative tools.
 
Annie Stephenson
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI
My research is focused on applying physics-based models to understand large-scale human social dynamics and collective behavior. In particular, I'm interested in social movements, social change, and cooperation.

Emma Zajdela
Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI, C-PREE (co-advisor Michael Oppenheimer)
My research focuses on modeling complex social systems, using a variety of approaches including applied dynamical systems, game theory, network science, and agent-based modeling. I am particularly interested in studying cross-border scientific collaboration at the nexus of environmental challenges and conflict.