EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V014439/1
Title: DMS-EPSRC Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics of Fluctuating Populations
Principal Investigator: Mobilia, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Rucklidge, Professor A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Surrey Virginia Polytechnic Inst & State Uni
Department: Applied Mathematics
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 December 2021 Ends: 31 May 2025 Value (£): 450,691
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Non-linear Systems Mathematics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2020 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel November 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Understanding the origin of species diversity and the evolution of cooperation is a major scientific riddle that resonates with numerous societal concerns, like the rise of antimicrobial resistance or the loss of biodiversity, and is even relevant to epidemiology. Population dynamics traditionally ignores fluctuations and considers static and homogeneous environments. However, fluctuations arising from randomly occurring birth / death events (demographic noise) and the change of environmental conditions (environmental variability), together with the spatial dispersal of species, play a crucial role in understanding how the size and composition of a population jointly evolve in time, i.e. its eco-evolutionary dynamics. Here, we focus on the ubiquitous situation where the eco-evolutionary dynamics of fluctuating populations is shaped by the coupling of demographic noise and environmental variability.

The interdependence of environmental variability and demographic noise is poorly understood but of great importance in microbial communities, which are often subject to sudden and extreme environmental changes. In particular, modelling population of varying size and composition subject to changing external factors is crucial to understand the evolution of microbial antibiotic resistance. In fact, pharmacodynamics largely focuses on the deterministic description of large well-mixed bacterial populations, but fails to account crucial stochastic effects arising in small communities. When antibiotics reduce a large population to a very small one but fail to eradicate it, surviving cells may replicate and restore infections, and these survivors are likely to develop antibiotic resistance. Owing to the small population size, the details of the outcome are subject to large fluctuations.This important example clearly illustrates the need for theoretical advances to shed light on extinction and resistance scenarios in fluctuating environments.

This ambitious proposal has branched out from a series of previous smaller collaborative projects, see e.g. References [1,2,12], visits and a workshop (co-funded by the Leeds School of Mathematics and the EPSRC Network Plus). It is a timely opportunity to carry out a cutting-edge research programme, containing elements of adventure and whose central goal is to develop a suite of theoretical tools that will allow us to describe biologically relevant evolutionary models, and to make testable predictions in laboratory-controlled experiments. For this joint effort, crucially building on the team's unique complementary expertise, we will adopt a multidisciplinary approach combining various mathematical tools and will consider models of an increasing level of complexity. Many of the features of our theoretical models, such as switching environments, time-varying population sizes, public good production, etc. can be reproduced in laboratory experiments. This opens the door to a host of exciting possibilities to address theoretical questions of direct biological relevance, and to experimentally test various predictions of our theoretical models. We will explore these opportunities with our experimental biologist project partner (see Dr Jose Jimenez's letter of support).

Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk