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Mathematical Modelling of Biological Control Interaction to Support Agriculture and Conservation

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Mathematical Modelling of Biological Control Interaction to Support Agriculture and Conservation

February 1, 2022 – June 30, 2022


Tamar Keasar (University of Haifa)
Eric Wajnberg (INRA)

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Global crop losses due to arthropods amount to 18-26% of the annual production. Efficient and sustainable pest control strategies are needed to reduce these losses. Many tools for controlling insect pests are available. Among them, biological control by insect natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) has recently gained renewed interest because of environmental concerns and problems encountered with the use of pesticides. Biological control has a long history of use in pest management and has been outstandingly successful in many instances. Nevertheless, such successes remain limited in number and failures are often under-reported. Moreover, biological control programs are still widely practiced as trial-and-error enterprises, rather than being guided by theory-driven principles.

The deficiency in theory-based biological control practices is not only due to insufficient basic information. A wealth of knowledge exists on the behavioral mechanisms employed by insect natural enemies to find and exploit their hosts/prey, as well as on their population dynamics and evolutionary adaptations to their environments. Moreover, a variety of modeling approaches are available to describe these processes and to predict their long-term population-level effects. These include tools such as static and dynamic optimization, game theory, stochastic dynamic modeling, matrix models and genetic algorithms. However, theoretical and empirical knowledge are often being advanced independently, limiting the interplay between the two fields and hence the connection between theory and practice.

Our study group will span the continuum between theoretical approaches (behavioral, population and community ecology) and application (biological control). Our main aim will be to bridge the existing gaps between the well-developed theory of interactions between insects and their natural enemies, and the optimization of the efficacy of biological control projects in agriculture and conservation. This interdisciplinary group will comprise mathematical biologists and experimentalists interested in close collaborations. 

Photo credit: Hans Smid (



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Research Groups:Stochasticity and Control in the Dynamics and Diversity of Immune Repertoires: an Example of Multi-Cellular Co-Operation

[RG # 150]  Stochasticity and Control in the Dynamics and Diversity of Immune Repertoires: an Example of Multi-Cellular Co-Operation

March 26- June 30, 2017

Uri Hershberg  (Drexel University)
Gur Yaari (Bar-Ilan University)

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We propose to study the general problems of functionality and robustness in complex biological systems, through a focus on the adaptive immune response as a model system. The adaptive immune response is a complex system, which comprises many interacting cells that are subject to various sources of stochasticity. We will address fundamental questions in the field such as how B and T cell repertoires collectively go through a process of stochastic diversity generation and clonal selection, and consistently yield functional controlled immune responses in a noisy environment. This understanding will be important in developing control strategies to modulate the immune response (e.g., with vaccinations or immune therapies) since, while predictable in the aggregate, human immune responses can display marked variability. For example, a small fraction of individuals do not raise antibodies following influenza vaccination, and efficacy rates for vaccination in older individuals are generally under 30%. Infections with West Nile virus are usually asymptomatic, but some patients experience severe neurological disease and even death. The potential role of stochasticity at different spatial and temporal scales in driving these diverse yet robus responses will be a main focus of our research group.


Mini Symposium Series

1st Mini Symposium Series on Stochasticity and Control in Biological Systems> 

2nd Mini Symposium Series on Stochasticity and Control in Biological Systems>



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Research Groups:Health and the Environment: A Unifying Framework from Individual Stress to Ecosystem Functioning


[RG # 147]   Health and the Environment: A Unifying Framework from Individual Stress to Ecosystem Functioning

June 1 - August 31, 2016

Dror Hawlena (The Hebrew University)

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Our Research Group aims to develop a general theory that provides novel, mechanistic understandings of the ways in which environmental changes regulate ecosystem processes via alteration of an animal's trophic functions.

We suggest using stress physiology as a common mechanism to scale plasticity in energy and elemental budgets at the individual level to processes occurring at the population, community and ecosystem levels. Trait expressions are shaped by evolution and are constrained by conservative biological processes. Thus, this evolutionary-based framework has much potential to reveal how ecological interactions emerge across levels of biological organization, and may assist in unifying existing, currently separated theories. Such an understanding is also crucial to better predict how human-induced rapid environmental changes will affect life-supporting ecosystem services. 


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Research Group: Big Data and Planets

big data

[RG # 157] Big Data and Planets

May 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019


Tsevi Mazeh (Tel Aviv University)

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Astronomy is in the midst of a transformation brought on by exponentially progressing technological advances in the information age. New detector capabilities and faster computation have created a new era in which the use of advanced data mining and inference methods could bring new answers to long-standing scientific questions. The proposed research group, which includes leading figures in data analysis of exo-planets will 

• prepare algorithms for analysis of data from the forthcoming TESS space mission, 

• apply Gaussian Processes and machine learning algorithms to model stellar variability in transit and radial-velocity studies of exo-planets, and 

• study exo-planetary system architectures by developing population models and confront them with the accumulating data, using new statistical tools. 

We expect the research group to provide a better understanding of the exo-planetary population via advanced statistical tools — a giant leap in one of the most exciting fields of present science. 


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Research Group: Geometric,Topological and Computational Aspects of High-Dimensional Combinatorics

[RG # 153]  Geometric, Topological and Computational Aspects of High-Dimensional Combinatorics

Sep 1, 2017 - Jul 1, 2018


Alexander Lubotzky (The Hebrew University) 
Tali Kaufman (Bar-Ilan University) 

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Combinatorics in general and the theory of expander graphs, in particular, have been fruitful areas of  interaction of pure and applied mathematics. In recent years a "high dimensional" theory has been emerged. This theory beside its intellectual interest has also a great potential for various applications in mathematics and computer science. This theory calls for a cooperation of experts in combinatorics, topology, geometry, group theory and computer science. We propose to organize a program that will bring together people from these areas in order to create a community of scholars who can cooperate on these new challenges.



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