James P. O’Dwyer is an ecologist in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the emergent properties of complex systems, especially the stability and biodiversity of ecological communities and the ways in which humans interact with and affect these properties.
Biological and social complex systems almost inevitably exhibit common mechanisms, like competition, cooperation, and adaptation. O’Dwyer’s project at Radcliffe is exploring these commonalities, with a focus on cooperation and the exchange of resources. Exchange can help to mitigate uncertain environments, whether it is between biological organisms seeking nutrients in a turbulent landscape or between human populations in an uncertain climate. The overarching goal is to understand in what types of environment robust cooperation and resource exchange will evolve, and how this can be informed by pooling knowledge drawn from across different domains.
O’Dwyer holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge. Before arriving at the University of Illinois, he was an Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He earned a 2015 investigator award from the Simons Foundation’s Mathematical Modeling of Living Systems program and a 2015 21st Century Science Initiative Award from the James S. McDonnell Foundation.