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Fagan, William

William Fagan
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Biology
College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences
1200A Bio-Psych
General Research Interests: 
  • Spatial Ecology
  • Ecoinformatics, biodiversity databases, and conservation planning

My research involves meshing field biology with theoretical models to address critical questions in community ecology and conservation biology. I believe that ecological theory will be strengthened if it is forced to help solve real-world problems, and that conservation biology involves difficult choices that demand quantitative approaches. My ongoing research falls in several areas that illustrate this melding of theory and problem-solving, including 1) spatial ecological dynamics, 2) ecoinformatics, biodiversity databases, and conservation planning, and 3) biological stoichiometry and paleoecostoichioproteomics.

Spatial Ecology

To understand the complex ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation, I combine mathematical theory with empirical databases and/or field experiments to explore how landscape heterogeneity and patchiness can influence population and community dynamics.  My interests in this area are diverse, including such issues as spatial subsidies, species’ home ranges and migratory movements, spatial aspects of successional change, and edge-mediated effects. Ultimately, I'm interested in how spatial effects influence the assembly, collapse, and functioning of ecological systems, and I try to understand these relationships by working at the interface of data and theory. Research on this topic involves field work in some amazing parts of the world, including the Eastern Steppes of Mongolia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the starkly beautiful Pumice Plains of Mt. St. Helens, Washington.
Ecoinformatics, biodiversity databases, and conservation planning
To strengthen the science of conservation biology, I work to devise a) quantitative methods for extracting useful biodiversity data from minimalist data sets, and b) mathematical models that assess the adequacy of conservation goals by focusing on the regional dynamics of archetypal, indicator species. An often forgotten key to such models is that they be simple enough that the appropriate data can actually be collected in the field.  My interests in the science of conservation are diverse, and I have been involved in projects ranging from reserve planning, to spatial analyses of extinction risk in desert fishes, to time-series analyses of extinction risk, to reviews of endangered species recovery plans.  In 2001, I received a Guggenheim Fellowship for support of my research in these areas for a project entitled: “The Weak Data Problem in Conservation Biology.”


Ph.D., University of Washington, 1996. Conservation Biology, Community Ecology, Theoretical Ecology.