home research publications teaching

Swati Patel


Like many naturalists, my research is motivated by a fascination with biodiversity. As a mathematical biologist, I develop and apply mathematical tools to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape our natural world. I am inspired by this paper.

Evolution of Complex Traits

During my post-doc, I became fascinated with trying to understand how organisms evolve complex traits (that is traits that involve many different components to work together to give rise to a function). Currently, I am working on whether and how chaperone proteins, which stabilize other proteins as they are folding, influence the evolution of the traits that result from proper folding.

Eco-Genetics Feedbacks

I am collaborating with population geneticist Reinhard Bürger, to understand how eco-evolutionary feedbacks within communities can affect genetic structure within a species. Together, we are developing appropriate eco-evolutionary models to account for explicit genetics that are still tractable. Already, we are finding that incorporating feedbacks with other species can enable polymorphisms at multiple loci even when classic population genetics theory predicts otherwise. This suggests that eco-evolutionary feedbacks promote diversity and inspires further curiosities, such as how important a role were these feedbacks to shaping our current genomes. Check out our new article!

Bird Migration

In collaboration with Tulane biologist Caz Taylor, who specializes in bird migration, and mathematics undergraduate Sian Grosskopf, we are analyzing a model that describes the population densities of birds that migrate between wintering and breeding habitats. We find that the relationships between the habitats, along with the distances between them, influence the connectivity patterns.

Coexistence Theory

For my thesis, I worked on building theory to understand how feedbacks between ecological and evolutionary processes affect coexistence in communities. This was timely given the evidence highlighting that evolution can happen very quickly and may generate a feedback with ecological processes, such as community dynamics. In collaboration with Sebastian Schreiber and Michael Cortez, we developed general theory on how feedbacks affect stability and persistence in communities. Here are slides from a talk I gave at a symposium on this topic at the Ecological Society of America meeting in August of 2016.