Prestigious DAAD scholarship awarded to investigate ecological networks

Ms. Henintsoa Onivola Minoarivelo

Ms Henintsoa Onivola Minoarivelo (better known as Ony), a C·I·B associate student who completed her MSc research in 2011 on Probabilistic modelling of the evolution of ecological interaction networks at the Computer Science Division of Stellenbosch University, has been awarded a prestigious PhD scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service, Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), in association with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). This scholarship will enable Ony to pursue her PhD degree at Stellenbosch University under the supervision of C·I·B researcher, Dr C. Hui, working on a project titled “The effect of environmental changes on the structure and stability of ecological networks”.

For their survival, species need to interact with their environment (namely with other species) and form ecological networks of interactions. The stability and function of the ecosystem largely depends on the robustness of such ecological networks when facing perturbations. Environmental changes, such as ambient temperature changes due to current climate change, or the loss of habitats, or biological invasions, affect the dynamics of the interactions in those networks. In this study, Ony will investigate the impact of such environmental changes in shaping the architecture of the networks. This will be done using mathematical models that represent the dynamics of the networks, parameterized by the rate of environmental changes.