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Miro Kummel

Associate Professor, Director of Environmental Programs

Miroslav 'Miro' Kummel is a population ecologist whose research connects the boundaries of mathematics, biology, and climatology. Miro received his bachelors in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and earned his Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Michigan.

Miro's research focuses on two distinct but related topics in spatial ecology. In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains Miro studies self-organization and emergent properties in spatial population dynamics of aphids, ants, and ladybugs . Moving to higher elevations, at Pikes Peak, Miro studies the migration of alpine tree line in response to regionally changing climate, and small-scale microclimatological feedbacks that are generated by the tree line migration. He spends his free time organic gardening, riding horses, painting with watercolors, woodworking with hand tools, skiing, and backpacking.

My research is focusing on two distinct areas of spatial ecology: (1) population dynamics in complex networks and (2) the role of climate change in species migrations. In the first area, I study population dynamics of aphids that are distributed across flowering stalks of yucca, a semi-desert plant. These populations form nodes within a network. The nodes are connected by fairly complex spatial foraging movements of predatory coccinellid beetles, and movements of ants. So far we were able to show that the system displays interesting emergent properties including self-organization at several different spatial scales. Currently we are investigating the role of network topology in the self-organization. The work involves both complex system modeling and field work. Both are lots of fun.

My second project focuses on the role of climate change in tree line migration at Pikes Peak. Using GIS and dendrochronology we were able to show that the tree line on Pikes Peak is migrating to higher elevations, and that both the rate of tree line movement and rate of tree growth are likely controlled by regional changes in temperature. Currently we are investigating the spatial properties of the moving front, and micrometeorological feedbacks that are put into motion by the migrating tree line.

Undergraduate students are heavily involved in both projects, and regularly attend national and international conferences in Ecology and Mathematical Biology. We are currently working on several manuscripts for publication with undergraduate students as co-authors.