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Climate Change Studied in a Digital Environment

Emily Dolson is a doctoral student earning dual degrees in computer science and in ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior at Michigan State University.

She is also part of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, funded by the National Science Foundation. She and her colleagues observe evolution in real time in either biological populations like E. coli or by using computers. Dolson research focus is on how ecosystems evolve over the long term, using an artificial life software platform called AVIDA.

“Evolution as a process is this thing that comes from these incredibly simple rules, but then results in really complicated and hard to predict patterns… once you understand what’s going on, it seems obvious,” says Dolson. While things may seem simple when worked backward, she says, “it’s this constant struggle with myself to remember that the results weren’t obvious to begin with and are worth sharing.”

Dolson’s main reason for conducting the research she does is that she is concerned about climate change. With ecosystems on the brink of collapsing, she wants to contribute a solution so all species, including humans, that depend on these ecosystems are getting the food, clean water, and clean air required to live.

  • Excerpted from article by Kristin Lauzon and Emily Dolson, Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research
    Photo Credit: Xiaoxing (Adele) Han

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