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Matthew Smith




I work in the Computational Science Lab at Microsoft Research, committed to improving societies (people, businesses, governments) abilities to predict geotemporal phenomena (properties and processes that can be associated with geographical space and time). I've worked in both theoretical and applied ecological science since I left high-school and have come to realise the enormous untapped value in predictive models of ecological and environmental systems. I aim to unleash that potential on the world. In recent years I've also discovered so many other geotemporal phenomena that we can predict, anticipate and make decisions about much better than we have done to date, especially in the domains of agriculture, utilities and energy, to name some major business sectors.


EXAMPLES (to name a few)


I'm currently working on some research projects with UK companies to investigate the value of predictive models of geotemporal phenomena to their businesses. While doing that I maintain research interests in predicting crop dynamics, carbon and vegetation, human responses to climate change, and ecosystem structure and function.


MY CURRENT PHD STUDENTS (I am lucky to work with some brilliant PhD students)

  • Jelte Mense, University of Edinburgh, (co-supervisor Paul Palmer) who is trying to predict the spatiotemporal dynamics of human populations in different scenarios, from riots to climate change induced conflict and migration
  • Johannes Meyerholt, University of Jena, (co-supervisor Soenke Zahele) who is undertaking a systematic analysis of how nitrogen cycling is modelled in global vegetation models
  • Ludovica Luisa Vissat, University of Edinburgh, (co-supervisor Jane Hillston) who is working on formal language support for ecological modelling
  • Anne Uilhoorn, University of Leiden (co-supervisor Peter Van Bodegom) who is working on understanding why we get deciduous and evergreen plant species  













    Other peer-reviewed publications

    M.Smith, A.White, J.A.Sherratt, S.Telfer, M.Begon, X.Lambin, (2008) Disease effects on reproduction can cause population cycles in seasonal environments. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77(2), 378-389 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01328.x.

    M.J. Smith, J.A.Sherratt (2007) The effects of unequal diffusion coefficients on periodic travelling wave properties in oscillatory reaction diffusion systems. Physica D, 236(2), 90-103, doi:10.1016/j.physd.2007.07.013

    Sherratt, J.A. & Smith M.J. (2008) REVIEW, Periodic Travelling Waves in Cyclic Populations: Field studies and reaction-diffusion models. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2007.1327 Proc. R. Soc. Interface, 5, 483-505.

    M.J. Smith, R.Sibly (2008) Identification of tradeoffs underlying the primary strategies of plants. Available online, Evolutionary Ecology Research , 10(1), 45-60.

    M.J. Smith, J.A.Sherratt, N.J.Armstrong, (2008) The effects of obstacle size on periodic travelling waves in oscillatory reaction-diffusion equations. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London - Series A, 464, 365-390. doi: 10.1098/rspa.2007.0198.

    M.J. Smith, A.White, J.A.Sherratt, X.Lambin, M.Begon, (2006) Delayed Density Dependent Season Length Alone can Lead to Rodent Population Cycles. American Naturalist 167(5), 695-704. doi: 10.1086/503119.

    C.Buckee, K.Koelle, M.J. Mustard (Smith), S.Gupta, (2004). The Effects of Host Contact Network Structure on Pathogen Diversity and Strain Structure. PNAS 101(29), 10839-44. doi:10.1073/pnas.0402000101

    M.J.Aitkenhead, M.J.Mustard (Smith), A.J.S.McDonald, (2004). Using neural networks to predict spatial structure in ecological systems. Ecol. Mod. 179(3), 393-403. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2004.05.008.

    M.J. Mustard (Smith), D.B.Standing, M.J.Aitkenhead, D.Robinson, A.J.S.McDonald (2003). The emergence of primary strategies in evolving virtual-plant populations. Evol. Ecol. Res. 5, 1067-81. Available online.

    Other Publications

    Smith, M.J., Brodie, C., Kowalczyk, J., Michnowicz, S. & McGough, H.N. (2006). CITES Orchid Checklist Volume 4.

    United Nations (2005). “Endangered Species” stamp series. Contributed text.

    Mustard (Smith), M.J. & Yuzbasioglu, S. (2005). Turkish Delights. Kew Magazine, Spring 2005

    McGough, H.N. Groves, M.G. Sajeva, M. Mustard (Smith), M.J. & Brodie, C (2004). CITES and Succulents, A User’s Guide. Lego Press

    McGough, H.N. Groves, M.G., Mustard (Smith), M.J.‡ & Brodie, C.(2004). CITES and Plants, A User’s Guide. Lego Press

    Williams, C. Davis, K. & Cheyne, P. (with the assistance of Mustard (Smith), M.J. & Brodie, C) (2003). The CBD, for Botanists.


    As a kid: always looking for explanations for patterns in the natural world.

    Revelation: shocked to discover at university that ecology was not taken seriously as a quantitative discipline. I was determined to be an ecology forecaster

    First attempts: determination to hone my quantitative skills led to research projects involving individual based models of crops. A stint at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew was my "Beagle Voyage" inspired me to do my first major research project as an undergraduate - combining my knowledge of modelling plants with theories of evolutionary specialisation to predict how plants evolve around the world by evolving virtual plants in virtual worlds.

    Back to school: Troubled by the lack of depth in my ability to connect that research with the real world I went back to RBG Kew as implementer of a number of conservation projects. After two years I undertook a PhD in mathematical ecology at Heriot-Watt University to hone my mathematical skills.

    On with business: three years later I joined Microsoft Research with a new skills set and buzzing with ideas about how to make ecological predictive models better shadow reality - it was time to get serious about ecological prediction!


    Matthew Smith, Scientist

    Computational Science Laboratory,

    Microsoft Research,

    21 Station Road, Cambridge, CB1 2FB, UK

    Tel: +44(0)1223 479 784

    Email: mattsmi(at)microsoft(dot)com