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James Patrick O'Dwyer

Profile picture for James Patrick O'Dwyer

Contact Information

286 Morrill Hall
505 S. Goodwin Ave
Urbana, IL 61801

Associate Head and Associate Professor, Plant Biology

Research Description

We work with theoretical models and a broad range of data to understand patterns of biodiversity, from tropical forests to host-associated microbial systems like the human microbiome

Ecological systems are the archetypal complex systems. They are typically heterogeneous, display non-equilibrium phenomena, are strongly interacting, noisy, and adapt over time. I bring together theory, experiment, and empirical data to try to understand how ecological processes drive the patterns of species and organisms we see in nature.

Some phenomena are almost universal across widely differing systems, which aids the prediction of patterns of biodiversity with limited knowledge of the underlying processes. Other patterns are highly contigent, providing important signatures of the differences between ecological systems. My research explores this tension, with the ultimate goal of establishing what are the key forces driving biodiversity across the globe.


Ph.D., University of Cambridge
M.A.St., University of Cambridge
M.Sci., University of Durham

Additional Campus Affiliations

Associate Head, Plant Biology
Associate Professor, Plant Biology
Associate Professor, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment
Faculty Fellow, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Affiliate, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Recent Publications

Fung, T., Pande, J., Shnerb, N. M., O'Dwyer, J. P., & Chisholm, R. A. (2024). Processes governing species richness in communities exposed to temporal environmental stochasticity: A review and synthesis of modelling approaches. Mathematical Biosciences, 369, Article 109131.

Arya, S., George, A. B., & O’Dwyer, J. P. (2023). Sparsity of higher-order landscape interactions enables learning and prediction for microbiomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(48), Article e2307313120.

George, A. B., & O'Dwyer, J. P. (2023). Universal abundance fluctuations across microbial communities, tropical forests, and urban populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(44), Article e2215832120.

Jops, K., & O’Dwyer, J. P. (2023). Life history complementarity and the maintenance of biodiversity. Nature, 618(7967), 986-991.

Fung, T., O'Dwyer, J. P., & Chisholm, R. A. (2022). Effects of temporal environmental stochasticity on species richness: a mechanistic unification spanning weak to strong temporal correlations. Oikos, 2022(3), Article e08667.

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