Marcel Holyoak

Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy

Editor-in-Chief, Ecology Letters


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Research pages

Spatial community dynamics

Animal conservation 

Predator-prey metapopulations

Course pages

Course materials are on SmartSite

Personal information

Curriculum Vitae



Some of my photos (on

Department Homepage

UC-Davis Homepage

Ecology Letters  Homepage


Description: Description: Description: Description: Marcel2.jpg


Phone: (530) 867-3391 (cell)

Fax: (530) 752-3350

Email: maholyoak AT

Department of Environmental Science and Policy,

University of California,

1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Office: 3154 Wickson Hall.

Lab: 1219 P.E.S. Building.


Ph.D., Ecology, 1992, Imperial College at Silwood Park, University of London
B.S., Biology, 1989, Imperial College, University of London

Introduction to research

My research program focuses on questions about the importance of spatial dynamics to populations and communities. It addresses theories that are central to conservation and the maintenance of biodiversity, and combines field, laboratory and theoretical components. Many of these projects are collaborative, as described on the pages for each topic area.

My work focuses on four major topics: 

(1) I am interested in metacommunities, the role of spatial dynamics in ecological communities. Ongoing research investigates the factors that maintain species diversity in both laboratory and field systems. This work also re-evaluates and challenges existing community theory that was developed for closed local communities. Recent directions include investigating the effects unidirectional dispersal and disturbance on spatial communities.

(2) Conservation of threatened animal species. My lab has worked extensively on the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle and is currently working on Tricolored Blackbirds. These projects aim to better understand regional population survival using knowledge of local and regional dynamics. 

(3) The ecology of organismal movement. Collaborative projects developed an integrative conceptual framework for considering the movement of all kinds of organisms. I conducted an extensive literature review to identify what studies of movement usually study, and how they can be improved. In the long-term I would like to integrate the biology of movement into population and community ecology in more complete ways.

(4) A long-held interest of mine is developing and testing theory about  metapopulations. This work uses microorganisms (protozoa and bacteria) in laboratory microcosms and theoretical models as tools for testing and improving ecological theory about mechanisms of persistence. 

(5) Spatial dynamics of wooly bear moths and its host plants in collaboration with Rick Karban. The project aims to discover how food web structure and population dynamics integrate across patchy habitats.

Curriculum Vitae as a PDF file

I am Editor-in-Chief for Ecology Letters. I am a past member of the editorial board of The American Naturalist and Ecology/Ecological Monographs, and a former member of the Faculty of 1000 in biology.



I accept students through the Graduate Group in Ecology, although my ability to do this is usually dependent on funding being available. Information for prospective graduate students.

I currently teach two courses. I am also the master advisor for students in the Environmental Biology and Management major and co-Master Advisor of the Environmental Science and Management major. 

See for course pages.

Current courses taught by me are below.

ESP010. “Current Issues in the Environment.” Course covers the science behind environmental issues, and policies affecting our ability to solve domestic and international environmental problems. Resources, environmental quality, regulation, environmental perception and conservation. Integrative case studies. Prerequisite: elementary biology recommended. Not open for credit to students who have completed course 1. GE credit: SciEng.

ECL200A "Ecological Principles and Applications" forms the first part of the core course for the Graduate Group in Ecology. The main aim of Ecology 200A is to provide students with a broad background in the principles, theoretical underpinnings, and applications of ecology. This serves as preparation for more specialized courses in the ecology program and gives students a general grounding in ecology. The course has a lecture and discussion format. Lectures aim to give the necessary background to understand ongoing debates in ecology and to synthesize the current state of empirical and theoretical knowledge of a broad range of areas in ecology.

Last modified 03/26/2013, M. Holyoak