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Brett Melbourne (biosketch)

Asst. Professor

2008-present. Dept Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder.

Proj. Scientist

2006-2008. Dept Environmental Science & Policy, University of California Davis.


2005-2006. Dept of Evolution & Ecology, University of California Davis.


2002-2005. Center for Population Biology, University of California Davis.


2001-2002. CSIRO Wildlife & Ecology, Australia.


PhD, 2001. Australian National University. Theoretical ecology.


B.Sc. (1st class honours, University Medal), 1993. Australian National University.

Undergraduate students

I strongly encourage undergraduate students to seek out opportunities for research experience. I've had 24 undergraduate students through my lab to experience cutting-edge ecological research first hand. Most have gone on to graduate school or professional positions in fields as wide ranging as medicine, veterinary research, forensics, entomology, environmental law and applied math. Current students: Alexendra Cline, Genevieve Dabrowski, Gavin Dean, Erin Polka, Steven Wells, Thomas Wong. Alumni Sally Voyles, Frances Drachenberg, (UC Davis alumni): David Smith, Motoki Wu, Claire Koenig, Roselia Villalobos, Mike Scaffidi, Tom McCabe, Michelle Gibson, Nancy Tcheou, Dylan Hodgkiss, Devan Paulus, Scott Ibaraki, Samaresh Kowshik, Drew Saruwatari, Trisha Deb, Jennifer Piekut, Sophia Chu, Jennifer Wolf.
Exciting research opportunities in conservation biology for Spring 2015.

Graduate students

For Fall 2016 I am only considering quantitative students who would enrol in our Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology program. We accept only the best students into this program. For the first year of your PhD you will be immersed in an interdisciplinary program with a small cohort of students from across the biological sciences, math, computer science, and engineering. In return, we will support you with a fellowship. If you have a very strong background in mathematics, statistics, or computer science as well as biology, please contact me about this opportunity.

Instructions to applicants.

Dr Caroline Tucker - postdoctoral fellow

Broadly I am an interested in combining observational and experimental approaches to community ecology with ecological theory. With members of the Melbourne lab, I am working on projects focused on the implications of phenotypic plasticity (and other sources of individual variation) for community assembly and competitive dynamics. This includes identifying competitive models that can incorporate the effects of plasticity, and carrying out competition experiments using freshwater zooplankton species like Daphnia magna. I also continue to collaborate on questions about how we measure and define biodiversity. In particular, the value of incorporating evolutionary history into measures of diversity, and the methodological considerations in answering ecological questions using such metrics.


Geoff Legault - PhD student

I study how demographic stochasticity affects populations and communities using a combination of mathematical models and microcosms. I am interested in how deterministic models (with or without stochastic approximations) differ in terms of biological outcomes from fully stochastic models. The fully stochastic models I use are constructed using Kolmogorov forward equations or simulated with the Gillespie algorithm. Further, I validate the use of these models in a Daphnia model system.

Lauren Shoemaker- PhD student

I am a community ecologist interested in exploring patterns of coexistence and community composition. My research focuses on extending modern coexistence theory to incorporate the interplay between heterogeneity and stochasticity in spatially varying environments (metacommunities). I use a combination of analytical techniques and simulations to explore equalizing and stabilizing coexistence mechanisms and the relative role of biotic interactions versus abiotic heterogeneity. Additionally, I study how equalizing and stabilizing mechanisms may interact over large time scales to explain macroecological patterns, such as the evolution of mammalian body mass distributions and maximum size across environments.


Ty Tuff - PhD student

The unifying theme behind all of my research is adding spatial movement to ecological and evolutionary processes. I develop hypotheses about the role of relative movement in ecological systems and the spatial patterns that develop when different parts of the natural system move in different directions or with different speeds relative to each other. I test these ideas using a mixture of theoretical modeling and highly replicated experimental microcosms with a strong emphasis on fitting mathematical theory with experimental data. I work at the boundary between scientific disciplines and collaborate with a diversity of scientific researchers studying problems related to animal migration, climate change, extinction, spatial spread, range limit dynamics, spatial evolution, habitat fragmentation, and thermodynamic niche modeling.


Topher Weiss-Lehman - PhD student

I focus on using mathematical and computational techniques to investigate the role of spatial structure in population dynamics. Specifically, I am interested in the role of spatially induced eco-evolutionary dynamics in the process of spatial spread. These dynamics, also referred to as “spatial selection,” have been shown to be at least partially responsible for the increased invasion speed observed in cane toads in Australia (Phillips et al. 2006) and to result in the evolution of increased dispersal tendency in protist microcosms (Fronhofer & Altermatt 2015). I am interested in the temporal dynamics of how and when such spatial structure evolves and in how it contributes to the large amount of variability associated with spatial spread.