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    Here I summarize my recent research projects:
  1. Community Ecology and the Neutral Theory of Biodiversity

    My early work on stochastic community models (Alonso and Sole 1999, McKane et al 2000) and metapopulation models (Alonso and McKane 2002) establishes a stochastic mathematical framework to analyze and model complex ecological interactions (Alonso 2004a). My approach emphasizes the discrete nature of individuals and their inherent random interactions. However, my most relevant contributions in community ecology are rather recent. In collaboration with Rampal Etienne at the University of Groningen, we have developed a new sampling theory which takes into account the sampling, ecological and evolutionary processes that ultimately determine the number and relative frequencies of the species (or strains) arising in a typical sample from a given community (Etienne et al 2007). In particular, in the context of the neutral theory of biodiversity, we have shown that samples from any local community can be seen as a result of a dispersal-limited sampling from a larger biogeographical area (Alonso and McKane 2004, Etienne and Alonso 2005, Alonso et al 2006). This new formulation of sampling has applications both to community ecology and population genetics and provides a unifying theoretical framework where other factors beyond neutrality can be easily considered (Etienne et al 2007).

  2. Dynamics of Infectious Diseases

    Recently, I have developed stochastic models to analyze time series data of infectious diseases (Alonso and Pascual 2005). This type of data can potentially register the signal of environmental and climate change. The main goal of this ongoing research is to quantify the relative importance of stochasticity, seasonal or climatic forcing on the nonlinear dynamics of infectious diseases, with applications to dynamics of malaria. In addition, in collaboration with Alan McKane from the University of Manchester and Mercedes Pascual at the University of Michigan, I have been working on the effect of demographic stochasticity on the non-linear dynamics of infectious diseases. Our recent theoretical work “Stochastic Amplification in Epidemics” (Alonso et al 2007) provides a novel quantitative description of stochastic fluctuations in epidemics. There is evidence that childhood diseases are clustered on specific regions of the parameter space. Due to inherent instabilities within these parameter domains, these infectious diseases appear to be prone to produce huge outbreaks. These fluctuations challenge control strategies. Our work is the first accurate quantitative characterization of strong coherent oscillations through endogenous stochastic resonance in real epidemiological systems. This phenomenon is also relevant to population oscillations in ecological systems in general.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan  
830 North University Av, Ann Arbor, MI-48109-1048, USA
Phone: (+1) 734 623 5008
Fax: (+1) 734 763 0544

dalonso@umich.edu