With my Master’s degree in hand, I’m happy to say that I will be starting a year-long fellowship with the European Doctoral School of Demography (EDSD) in September, at the Max Planck Center for Biodemography in Odense.
When I tell people about this exciting new chapter in my academic career, they usually ask me, “What’s biodemography, and why do you want to study it for a year?”
Demography is the mathematical study of populations. Populations can grow and change in a variety of ways. Individuals can immigrate and emigrate. Some are born and some die. The population is composed mostly of old trees or mostly of saplings.
Demography is used a lot by social scientists to study trends in human societies, but when you use demography to answer questions about biology, that’s biodemography. Demography can give you insight into a lot of different things: how populations respond to environmental disruption, how patterns of growth and reproduction vary from species to species, the evolution of aging, and how to save an endangered species or stop an invasive one.
My fellowship is going to be computational and quantitative. I will learn mathematical techniques to analyze population dynamics and apply them to demographic data from species that interest me. I’m not sure which species yet, but they almost certainly won’t be human. I’m interested in using demography for conservation, and humans aren’t exactly an endangered species.