Science Article: Animal Population Research





Margie Yu
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Cal State L.A. Professor's Research
Considered the First Convincing Example of Chaos in Ecology

Los Angeles, California – Population biologist Robert A. Desharnais, a professor in the Department of Biology and Microbiology at California State University, Los Angeles, has published a study (October 19, 2001) in the journal Science with the so-called “Beetle Team”—leaders in the study of nonlinear population dynamics from several U.S. universities.

The interdisciplinary team of two biologists, three mathematicians and a statistician, used six years of flour beetle population data to improve modeling tools widely used to explain fluctuations in animal numbers. The research provides ecologists vital information for the management of natural resources and aids those who rely on the tools for understanding or managing a variety of animal populations, including wildlife, commercial fisheries and agricultural pests.

The team’s work—first published in Science in 1997—is considered the first convincing example of chaos in ecology. Desharnais’ research reports on other topics have been published in many professional journals, including Nature, and have been reported on in news articles in Nature and several major newspapers, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the author of the highly popular Web service, Virtual FlyLab, used extensively for genetics instruction, and author of the instructional applications FlyLab, now available at Biology Labs On-Line [], published by Benjamin-Cummings and the CSU.


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