I am head of the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group (CEES), a part of the Computational Science Lab at Microsoft Research Cambridge. The goal of CEES is to develop predictive models of ecological systems, by inventing and applying new models and new scientific software tools. [CEES main page][CEES handout (pdf)]
I studied ecology at Cambridge University, did a PhD in ecological modelling at the University of York (UK, working under Prof. Richard Law), and spent nearly 6 years as a postdoc in the EEB Department at Princeton University (working under Prof. Stephen Pacala), before joining MSR Cambridge in 2007. My research has led to over 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals including Science, PNAS, Proc Roy Soc B, Global Change Biology, Ecology, Ecological Monographs and Ecology Letters. I co-supervise several PhD students at European universities (see below), and since 2008 have been an affiliate lecturer at Cambridge University. I am currently the treasurer of the British Ecological Society. Since the education system is currently a hot topic in the UK, I've decided to start pointing out that I did my GCSEs and A-levels at Beauchamp College, Leicester, which was a state comprehensive at the time, and is now a 'maintained school', which I believe is exactly the same thing. Make of that what you will!
Ecology is the science of interacting organisms, often described more dryly as 'the study of how the distribution and abundance of organisms follows from their interactions with other, and with the environment'. Therefore, ecology is crucial to addressing the many global challenges that we now face, including sustainable agriculture, fisheries and wood production; conserving biodiversity and ecosystem function; and predicting and mitigating disease outbreaks.
Within this broad definition, my own research spans many questions, taxa and scales, ranging from studies of the growth and development of small plants measured over a few days, through studies of how the continental-scale geographical distributions of tree species emerge over timescales of centuries; to global-scale models of carbon, biodiversity, and ecosystem function. However, this otherwise broad research 'programme' is united by an insistence on adopting a 'joined up' approach to ecology -- marrying models, with data, via comptutational statistics, in order to provide defensible, believeable models of ecological phenomena. Developing such models both increases our understanding of nature, and provides the ability to manage it better. Here at Microsoft I have a green light to pursue this research agenda, whilst packaging up the various novel software that it requires into reuseable tools that allow other scientists to more easily adopt the same joined up approach to ecological modelling.
Some example projects that are particularly dear to me at present: CCF1.0, the world's first fully data constrained model of the terrestrial carbon cycle (with Matthew Smith); The Madingley Model, the world's first global process-based model of global ecosystem function (think, simulating how all the eating, moving, growing, dying, and reproduction of all the world's animals and plants, somehow adds up to the biosphere as we know it!: with Tim Newbold, Mike Harfoot and Derek Tittensor); understanding geographic distributions of species (with Greg McInerny and Mark Vanderwel); understanding the underlying program that guides the growth and development of plants (with Lindsay Turnbull and Camille Guilbaud); and predictive modelling of global agriculture (with Paul Palmer).
Tools: including FetchClimate and Filzbach
A principle goal of the CEES group that I lead is to invent new scientific software to enable predictive modelling of ecological systems, then package this software into reuseable tools [read more here]. I have been involved in many experimental prototype tools since joining Microsoft Research, several of which can be found on our new tools site. Two relatively mature tools that I have been deeply involved with are FetchClimate, an easy, intelligent service for providing climate information; and Filzbach, a fast, robust, flexible adaptive MCMC library for parameterizing complex models against heterogeneous data. [try FetchClimate online][try Filzbach online][new tools site]
Purves' current PhD students (in order of appearance):
Emily Lines (University of Cambridge)
Corresponding CEES project:
Silvia Caldararu (University of Edinburgh)
Corresponding CEES project:
Nikee Groot (University of Leeds)
Corresponding CEES project:
Sadia Ahmed (Imperial College London)
Corresponding CEES project:
Isabela Rosa (Imperial College London)
Corresponding CEES project:
Camille Guilbaurd (University of Zurich)
Corresponding CEES project:
- Silvia Caldararu, Drew W. Purves, and Matthew J. Smith, Functional and Structural Optimality in Plant Growth: A Crop Modelling Case Study, 15 December 2014.
- Matthew J. Smith, Stephen Emmott, Drew W. Purves, Lucas N. Joppa, and Vassily Lyutsarev, Joined-up Planetary Information, in the Cloud and on Devices, 15 December 2014.
- Camille Guilbaud, Neil Dalchau, Drew Purves, and Lindsay Turnbull, Is 'peak N' key to understanding the timing of flowering in annual plants?, in New Phytologist, New Phytologist Trust, 9 October 2014.
- Harfoot, M.B.J., Newbold, T., Tittensor, D.P., Emmott, S., Hutton, J., Lyutsarev, V., Smith, M.J., Purves, and D.W., Emergent Global Patterns of Ecosystem Structure and Function from a Mechanistic General Ecosystem Model , in PLOS Biology, 22 April 2014.
- Matthew J. Smith, Paul I. Palmer, Drew W. Purves, Mark C. Vanderwel, Vassily Lyutsarev, Ben Calderhead, Lucas N. Joppa, Christopher M. Bishop, and Stephen Emmott, Changing how Earth System Modelling is done to provide more useful information for decision making, science and society., in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, American Meteorological Society, February 2014.
- S. Caldararu, D. W. Purves, and P.I. Palmer, Phenology as a strategy for carbon optimality: a global model, in Biogeosciences, vol. 11, 2014.
- Tim Newbold, Jörn PW Scharlemann, Stuart HM Butchart, Ça\ugan H Şekercio\uglu, Lucas Joppa, Rob Alkemade, and Drew W Purves, Functional traits, land-use change and the structure of present and future bird communities in tropical forests, in Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2014.
- Isabel M D Rosa, Drew Purves, Carlos Souza Jr, and Robert M Ewers, Predictive Modelling of Contagious Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, in PLOS One, PLoS, October 2013.
- Mark C Vanderwel, Vassily S Lyutsarev, and Drew W Purves, Climate-related variation in mortality and recruitment determine regional forest-type distributions, in Global Ecology and Biogeography, Wiley, 4 June 2013.
- Mark C Vanderwel and Drew W Purves, How do disturbances and environmental heterogeneity affect the pace of forest distribution shifts under climate change?, in Ecography, Wiley, June 2013.
- M. J. Smith, D. W. Purves, M. C. Vanderwel, V. Lyutsarev, and S. Emmott, The climate dependence of the terrestrial carbon cycle, including parameter and structural uncertainties, in Biogeosciences, vol. 10, pp. 583-606, European Geosciences Union, 29 January 2013.
- Drew W Purves, Jorn P W Scharlemann, Mike Harfoot, Tim Newbold, Derek Tittensor, Jon Hutton, and Stephen Emmott, Time to Model All Life on Earth, in Nature, vol. 493, no. 7432, pp. 295-297, Nature Publishing Group, 17 January 2013.
- Mark C Vanderwel, David A Coomes, and Drew W Purves, Quantifying variation in forest disturbance, and its effects on aboveground biomass dynamics, across the eastern United States, in Global Change Biology, Wiley, January 2013.
- Raul Garcia-Valdes, Miguel A Zavala, Migueal B Araujo, and Drew W Purves, Chasing a moving target: projecting climate change-induced shifts in non-equilibrial tree species distributions, in Journal of Ecology, British Ecological Society, January 2013.
- Tim Newbold, Jorn P W Scharlemann, Stuart H M Butchart, Cagan A Sekercioglu, Rob Alkemade, Hollie Booth, and Drew W Purves, Ecological traits affect the response of tropical forest bird species to land-use intensity, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, The Royal Society, November 2012.
- Matthew J. Smith, Mark C. Vanderwel, Vassily Lyutsarev, Stephen Emmott, and Drew W. Purves, The climate dependence of the terrestrial carbon cycle; including parameter and structural uncertainties, in Biogeosciences Discussions, vol. 9, pp. 13439-13496, European Geosciences Union, 4 October 2012.
- Tim Newbold, Stuart Butchart, Cagan Sekercioglu, Drew Purves, and Jorn Scharlemann, Mapping Functional Traits: Comparing Abundance and Presence-Absence Estimates at Large Spatial Scales, in PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 8, PLoS, 31 August 2012.
- Lindsay A Turnbull, Christopher D Philipson, Drew W Purves, and AndOthers, Plant growth rates and seed size: a re-evaluation, in Ecology, vol. 93, no. 6, pp. 1283-1289, Ecological Society of America, June 2012.
- Silvia Caldararu, Paul Palmer, and Drew Purves, Inferring Amazon leaf demography from satellite observations of leaf area index, in Biogeosciences, European Geosciences Union, April 2012.
- Emily R Lines, Miguel A Zavala, Drew W Purves, and David A Coomes, Predictable changes in aboveground allometry of trees along gradients of temperature, aridity and competition, in Global Ecology and Biogeography, Wiley, February 2012.
- Drew Purves and Mark Vanderwel, (book chapter in press) Traits States and Rates: Understanding Coexistence in Forests , in Forests and Global Change, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- John P. Caspersen, Mark C. Vanderwel, William G. Cole, and Drew W. Purves, How stand productivity results from size- and competition-dependent growth and mortality, in PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 12, pp. e28660, December 2011.
- Richard J. Williams and Drew W. Purves, The probabilistic niche model reveals substantial variation in the niche structure of empirical food webs, in Ecology, 19 September 2011.
- C.E. Timothy Paine, Toby R Marthews, Deborah R Vogt, Drew Purves, Mark Rees, Andy Hector, and Lindsay A Turnbull, How to fit nonlinear plant growth models and calculate growth rates: an update for ecologists, in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, British Ecological Society, September 2011.
- Matthew J. Smith, Richard J. Williams, and Drew W. Purves, Boosting CITES Through Research, in Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 18 February 2011.
- Greg McInerny and Drew Purves, Fine-scale environmental variation in species distribution modelling: regression dilution, latent variables and neighbourly advice, in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, British Ecological Society, 25 January 2011.
- Alexander A Barron, Drew W Purves, and Lars O Hedin, Facultative nitrogen fixation by canopy legumes in a lowland tropical forest , in Oecologia, Springer Verlag, November 2010.
- Emily R Lines, David A Coomes, and Drew Purves, Influences of Forest Structure, Climate and Species Composition on Tree Mortality across the Eastern US, in PLoS-One, vol. 5, no. 10, PLoS, October 2010.
- Drew Purves and Lindsay Turnbull, Different but equal: the implausible assumption at the heart of neutral theory, in Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 79, no. 6, pp. 1215-1225, British Ecological Society, 3 August 2010.
- Rich Williams, Ananthi Anandanadesan, and Drew Purves, The Probabilistic Niche Model Reveals the Niche Structure and Role of Body Size in a Complex Food Web, in PLoS-One, vol. 5, no. e12092, PLoS, August 2010.
- Rosie Fisher, Nate McDowell, Drew Purves, Paul Moorcroft, Stephen Sitch, Peter Cox, Chris Huntingford, Patrick Meir, and F. Ian Woodward, Assessing uncertainties in a second-generation dynamic vegetation model due to ecological scale limitations, in New Phytologist, vol. 187, no. 3, pp. 666-681, August 2010.
- Jeremy W Lichstein, Jonathan Dushoff, Kiona Ogle, Anping Chen, Drew W Purves, John Caspersen, and Stephen W Pacala, Unlocking the forest inventory data: relating individual-tree performance to unmeasured environmental factors, in Ecological Applications, April 2010.
- Yann Hautier, Andy Hector, Eva Vojtech, Drew Purves, and Lindsay Turnbull, Modelling the Growth of Parasitic Plants, in Journal of Ecology, 2010.
- Daniel Montoya, Drew W Purves, Itziar Rodriguez, and Miguel A Zavala, Do species distribution models explain spatial structure within tree species ranges?, in Global Ecology and Biogeography, August 2009.
- Drew Purves, The demography of range boundaries vs range cores in Eastern US tree species, in Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, vol. 276, pp. 1477-1484, 25 February 2009.
- Nikolay Strigul, Denis Pristinski, Drew W Purves, Jonathan Dushoff, and Stephen W Pacala, Scaling from trees to forests: tractable macroscopic equations for forest dynamics, in Ecological Monographs, vol. 78, no. 4, pp. 523-545, November 2008.
- Drew W Purves, Jeremy W Lichstein, Nikolay Strigul, and Stephen W Pacala, Predicting and understanding forest dynamics using a simple tractable model, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 29 October 2008.
- Lindsay A Turnbull, Mark Rees, and Drew W Purves, Why equalising trade-offs aren’t always neutral, in Ecology Letters, vol. 11, pp. 1037-1046, October 2008.
- Drew W Purves and Stephen W Pacala, Predictive Models of Forest Dynamics, in Science, vol. 320, no. 5882, pp. 1452-1453, 13 June 2008.
- Lindsay A Turnbull, Cloe Paul-Victor, Bernhard Schmid, and Drew W Purves, Growth rates, seed size and physiology - Do small-seeded species really grow faster?, in Ecology, vol. 89, pp. 1352-1363, January 2008.
- Daniel Montoya, Miguel A Zavala, Miguel A Rodriguez, and Drew W Purves, Animal Versus Wind Dispersal and the Robustness of Tree Species to Deforestation, in Science, vol. 320, no. 5882, pp. 1502-1504, January 2008.
- Thomas P Adams, Drew W Purves, and Stephen W Pacala, Understanding height-structured competition in forests: is there an R* for light?, in Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, vol. 274, no. 1628, pp. 3039-3047, January 2007.
- Drew W Purves, Jeremy W Lichstein, and Stephen W Pacala, Crown Plasticity and Competition for Canopy Space: A New Spatially Implicit Model Parameterized for 250 North American Tree Species, in PLoS-One, vol. 2, no. 9, pp. e870, January 2007.
--- Contact ---
21 Station Road,
Cambridge, CB1 2FB, UK
--- Latest News ---
Our Comment piece in Nature: Time to Model All Life on EarthTim & Drew's latest (in Proc Roy Soc): how bird traits affect response to land-use change
Drew Purves one of 40 scientists worldwide invited to attend the World Economic Forum 'Summer Davos' 2012
Check out mine and Raul's SPOM demo in html5! [try online]
FetchClimate highlighted at Techfest 2012 [video][Rick Rashid's keynote][next at Microsoft]
Emily Lines has handed in her PhD thesis. Well done Emily! [Emily's paper on tree mortality]
New paper with Silvia Caldararu: 'Intelligent' Amazon trees track light [read more]
Drew Purves listed in Wired 2012 smart list [read more]