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Computational Biology

Understanding food web dynamics: Ignoring generalists is leading us astray

Our understanding of food web dynamics has come a long way since Bob Paine reinvigorated the study of species interaction networks.  Our mathematical theory for predator-prey interactions and food web stability in particular has progressed in leaps-and-bounds.  Nevertheless, I will argue that we — as both theoreticians and empiricists — are largely ignoring the interactions of generalist predators by assuming that the (more feasible) study of specialist predators will suffice.  Despite my academic grandfather’s call for man

Aerial autonomy at insect scale: What flying insects can tell us about robotics and vice versa

Insect-sized aerial robots will be deployed where their small size, low cost, and maneuverability give them an advantage over larger robots. For example, they could deploy in swarms to follow airborne plumes to locate gas leaks in dense piping infrastructure. However, miniaturization poses challenges because the physics of scaling dictates that many technologies used in larger aircraft cannot operate effectively at the size of insects. These include propellers, the Global Positioning System, and general-purpose microprocessors.

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