Photo of Dr Stephen Cornell

Dr Stephen Cornell

Reader in Mathematical Ecology Evolution, Ecology & Behaviour


    Research Overview

    Biology has been described as a science of differences, and these differences manifest themselves at many levels: species use different strategies to survive, individuals of the same species can display a wide diversity of traits and life histories, and populations change over space and time. I am particularly interested in the ways that these different kinds of heterogeneity affect how species coexist, invade, and evolve.

    My principle research focus is on mathematical approaches that can take account of this heterogeneity without ending up with models that are hopelessly complicated. For example, to describe a population exactly one would have to know the characteristics of every individual in the system, but in many cases good approximations can be derived by describing the distribution of their attributes using a random process. For some years now I have been developing methods for quantifying the impact of spatial structure, stochasticity (noise), and other sorts of heterogeneity, which can be applied to the dynamics of a very wide range of systems of interacting populations.

    Research Interests

    Topics I have recently worked on include: patterns of coexistence and abundance of communities containing very many species that compete for common resources (such as tropical forests); the role of evolution and dispersal polymorphism during biological invasions; and the optimisation of habitat networks to help species keep up with climate change.

    Research Grants

    Evolutionary resistance: Does adaptation stabilise plant community structure and function under climate change?


    August 2018 - May 2022