Lionel Dupuy

Maths, modelling and quantitative biology

The diverse group of modellers and mathematical biologists in EPI has now reached critical mass with some 15 in-house researchers and students. They direct a range of concepts and tools to questions in systems biology, at scales of organ, individual and community, and in applications as diverse as plant-plant sensing, multi-trophic interactions, ‘industrial’ genotypes and GM coexistence policy.

Modelling and various mathematical approaches now permeate much of the science and some of the applications in EPI. A common and defining feature of the work is the exploration of 'the individual' in 'the system', in which the interactions among individual organisms, organs or cells give rise to emergent properties not predictable from the characteristics of the individuals themselves. Biologists, modellers and software developers combine their skills to address central and essential challenges in modern biology. The examples below are of current work (main funders in parenthesis).

EPI modelling

A lot is known about how plants, animals and human decisions interact within the arable environment. There is increasing evidence however that what happens globally results from the interplay between these processes. Through modelling we aim to combine existing knowledge to make predictions of the system as a whole. The knowledge, methods and tools that we develop provide fundamental support to sustainable agricultural production systems.

Modelling of processes in arable systems

Image showing a model of the root meristematic waveWe use mathematical and statistical modelling to understand the functioning of arable vegetation and organisms, its responses to agricultural innovations and global change, and its role in the sustainability of the arable system as a whole. Key areas of this research include the following.

Resource Capture

Adequate resources of light, water and mineral nutrients are essential for plants. The Resource Capture Group aims to understand how best to optimise the utilisation of these resources by crops in a changing global environment, by elucidating the genetic control and physiological bases of the traits involved.

We are also interested in how plants compete, as individuals, for these resources and aim to explain this. We have a strong research team that integrates knowledge of plant physiology, particularly of rooting traits, genetics and mathematical modelling. The group is actively involved in the SCRI Living Field educational project.

Environment Plant Interactions

Image of the SCRI site looking towards the River TaySCRI's environmental science research spans across disciplines to gain a holistic understanding of how plants respond to and modify environmental processes. Scottish Government commissioned research is gaining an in-depth understanding of the environment in arable farming systems and this is being used to advise on policy development in Scotland. These skills have also been applied to emerging issues relevant to the UK and Europe, including the UK’s Farm Scale Evaluations, international working groups, IPDM-based alternatives to pesicides and EU-wide studies on the ecological impacts of GM plants.

The environment and the ecology of plants and pests are our key research areas, investigated by a strong multidisciplinary team of scientists in entomology, pathology, plant sciences, vegetation ecology, phytochemistry, mathematical modelling and soil sciences. A major area of interest is integrating processes that occur above ground and in the soil. Research conducted on plant interactions with soil has extended from the understanding of sustainable arable systems to ‘green’ engineering solutions for slope stabilisation with vegetation.

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