The Theoretical Ecology Section

About the Section

The Theoretical Ecology Section is one of the most rapidly growing organizations within the Ecological Society of America.
The Section was formed in 1993 to :

      1. Foster theoretical research in all areas of ecology;
      2. Sponsor meetings for the presentation of results;
      3. Foster communication and research collaboration between theoreticians and experimental/field ecologists;
      4. Encourage the application of ecological theory to the resolution of societal problems.

The section sponsors a mixer and best student talk and poster awards at the annual ESA meetings, as well as a best paper award, to facilitate interaction among new and established theoreticians.

To join us, you must first be a member of ESA. You can enroll online here, selecting “Theoretical Ecology” in “Section V”.

2016 Lotka & Volterra Awards: Accepting self-nominations now!

The Theoretical Ecology Section of the ESA is proud to announce the sixteenth annual Alfred J. Lotka prize for the best poster and the Vito Volterra prize for the best talk given by students during the ESA annual meeting. The award is open to undergraduate and graduate students who, as sole or first author, present a talk or poster at the 2016 ESA meeting on original research in theoretical ecology. All suitable approaches that yield theoretical insight to ecological phenomena will be considered. Prizes will be awarded on the basis of merit, originality, and clarity of presentation. Information on past winners can be found here.

To be considered for either the Lotka award or the Volterra award, students (or their advisors) must complete the online nomination form at
You will need to provide the session name and number, and the date, time and room number (for oral presentations) so please have this information ready.

Please share this announcement with any students who you know are giving talks or presenting posters on any aspect of theoretical ecology at this year’s ESA meeting.

Looking forward to seeing you in Ft Lauderdale!

Congratulations to the 2016 Outstanding Ecological Theory Paper Award Winners!

The Theoretical Ecology Section is pleased to award the 2016 prize for the “Outstanding Paper in Theoretical Ecology” to a pair of recipients whose work the section officers found equally distinguished.  

The first co-recipient is Gyorgy Barabas and co-authors for their paper entitled “Sensitivity analysis of coexistence in ecological communities: theory and application” (Ecology Letters 2014, 17:1479-1494).  This paper extends the tools of sensitivity analysis to the community level, and in doing so develops an important new perspective on the analysis of theoretical and applied models. First, it gives a method for assessing extinction risk in communities facing environmental change. Second, much like standard linear stability analysis, it can be used as part of the theoretician’s toolbox that can aid understanding model behavior better. Finally, on the broadest level, it provides a new formulation of the classical concepts of niche differentiation and limiting similarity, one that retains the original intuition behind the terms but avoids some of the pitfalls of earlier approaches.

The second co-recipient is Simon Stump and Peter Chesson for their paper entitled “Distance-responsive predation is not necessary for the Janzen-Connell hypothesis” (Theoretical Population Biology 2015, 106:60-70).  This paper uses mathematical models to test three of the core claims of the Janzen-Conell hypothesis – a major hypotheses for explaining tropical biodiversity.  Using an elegant site occupancy model, the authors show that each of these claims are problematic.  For example, many studies on the Janzen-Connell hypothesis have focused on testing whether predators are distance-responsive, but the authors show that distance-responsive predations are actually less able to promote coexistence than more widely dispersing predators.  Additionally, this paper resolves contradictory results in both the theoretical and empirical literature, and suggests ways to improve experimental testing.  

A number of impressive papers were nominated for the prize this year, and the section executive appreciated the opportunity to read and evaluate all of the nominated papers.  We would also like to note that one of our officers removed herself from the final decision-making process due to her role as a coauthor on the paper.  The remainder of the section executive felt strongly that this paper should not be overlooked for the award due to her involvement.

Last updated on: July 7, 2016

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