Dewar Lab  Entropy in biological and physical systems
Our research spans biology and physics. We use ideas and tools from thermodynamics to understand and predict the statistical behaviour of complex systems consisting of many variables. When some internal details average out, ‘more’ can mean ‘simpler’ and reproducible patterns may emerge. Biological phenomena of interest include patterns of molecular evolution, plant adaptation, and biodiversity. In physics we study reproducible features of fluid turbulence and Earth’s climate. Maximum entropy provides a unifying principle for our work.
Members
Leader
Roderick Dewar
Divisional Visitor
Projects
Open to students

Entropy, information theory and biodiversity (Undergraduate, Summer scholar course, Honours, Graduate, Higher degree by research)

Plant optimisation modelling (Undergraduate, Summer scholar course, Honours, Graduate, Higher degree by research)

Theory and application of Maximum Entropy Production (Undergraduate, Summer scholar course, Honours, Graduate, Higher degree by research)

Where physics and maths meet biology (Undergraduate, Summer scholar course, Honours, Graduate, Higher degree by research)
Publications
Selected publications
 Bertram, Dewar RC. 2015. Combining mechanism and drift in community ecology: a novel statistical mechanics approach. Theoretical Ecology (accepted).
 Meir P, Mencuccini M, Dewar RC. 2015. Droughtrelated tree mortality:addressing the gaps in understanding and prediction. New Phytologist (accepted).
 Bertram J. 2015. Maximum kinetic energy dissipation and the stability of turbulent Poiseuille flow. Journal of Fluid Mechanics (accepted).
 Bertram J. 2014. Maximum entropy models of ecosystem functioning. In Proceedings of the 33rd Workshop on Bayesian Inference and Maximum Entropy Methods in Science and Engineering (MaxEnt 2013), AIP Conference Proceedings 1636, 131136.
 Dewar RC. 2014. A general maximum entropy framework for thermodynamic variational principles. In Proceedings of the 33rd International Workshop on Bayesian Inference and Maximum Entropy Methods in Science and Engineering (MaxEnt 2013), AIP Conference Proceedings 1636, 137144.
 Dewar RC, Lineweaver CH, Niven RK, RegenauerLieb K. 2014. Beyond the second law: an overview. In Beyond The Second Law: Entropy Production and Nonequilibrium Systems (eds: Dewar RC, Lineweaver CH, Niven RK, RegenauerLieb K), Springer (Book Series: Understanding Complex Systems), pp. 327
 Dewar RC, Maritan A. 2014. A theoretical basis for maximum entropy production. In Beyond The Second Law: Entropy Production and Nonequilibrium Systems (eds: Dewar RC, Lineweaver CH, Niven RK, RegenauerLieb K), Springer (Book Series: Understanding Complex Systems), pp. 4971
 Bertram J, Dewar RC. 2013. Statistical patterns in tropical tree cover explained by the different water demand of individual trees and grasses. Ecology, 94, 21382144
 McMurtrie RE, Dewar RC. 2013. New insights into carbon allocation by trees from the hypothesis that annual wood production is maximised. New Phytologist, DOI: 10.1111/nph.12344.
 Dewar RC, Tarvainen L, Parker K*, Wallin G, McMurtrie RE. 2012. Why does leaf nitrogen decline within tree canopies less rapidly than light? An explanation from optimization subject to a lower bound on leaf mass per area. Tree Physiology 31, 520534.
 McMurtrie RE, Iversen CM, Dewar RC, Medlyn BE, Näsholm T, Pepper DA, Norby RJ. 2012. Plant root distributions and nitrogen uptake predicted by a hypothesis of optimal root foraging. Ecology & Evolution 2(6), 12351250.
 Franklin O, Johansson J, Dewar RC, Dieckmann U, McMurtrie RE, Brännström Å, Dybzinski R. 2012. Modeling carbon allocation in trees: a search for principles. Tree Physiology 32, 648666.
 Dewar RC, Sherwin WB, Thomas E*, Holleley CE, Nichols RA. 2011. Predictions of singlenucleotide polymorphism differentiation between two populations in terms of mutual information. Molecular Ecology 20, 31563166.
 McMurtrie RE, Dewar RC. 2011. Leaf trait variation explained by the hypothesis that plants maximise their canopy carbon export over the lifespan of leaves. Tree Physiology 31, 10071023.
 Dewar RC. 2010. Maximum entropy production and plant optimization theories. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) 365, 14291435. Contribution to Theme Issue (eds. Kleidon A, Cox PM, Mahli Y): Maximum entropy production in ecological and environmental systems: applications and implications.
 Dewar RC, Franklin O, Mäkelä A, McMurtrie RE, Valentine HT. 2009. Optimal function explains forest responses to global change. BioScience 59(2), 127139.
 Dewar RC. 2009. Maximum entropy production as an inference algorithm that translates physical assumptions into macroscopic predictions: Don’t shoot the messenger. Entropy 11, 931944. Contribution to Special Issue (eds. Dyke J, Kleidon A): What is Maximum Entropy Production and how should we apply it?
 Magnani F, Dewar RC, Borghetti M. 2009. Leakage and spillover effects of forest management on carbon storage: theoretical insights from a simple model. Tellus B 61, 385393.
 Dewar RC, Porté A. 2008. Statistical mechanics unifies different ecological patterns. Journal of Theoretical Biology 251, 389403.
 McMurtrie RE, Norby RJ, Medlyn BE, Dewar RC, Pepper DA, Reich PB, Barton CVM. 2008. Why is plant growth response to CO2 amplified when water is limiting, but reduced when nitrogen is limiting? A growthoptimisation hypothesis. Functional Plant Biology 35, 521534.
 Dewar RC, Juretić D, Županović P. 2006. The functional design of the rotary enzyme ATP synthase is consistent with maximum entropy production. Chemical Physics Letters 430, 177182.
 Dewar RC. 2005. Maximum entropy production and the fluctuation theorem. Journal of Physics A (Mathematical and General) 38, L371L381.
 Dewar RC. 2004. Maximum entropy production and nonequilibrium statistical mechanics. In NonEquilibrium Thermodynamics and Entropy Production : Life, Earth and Beyond (eds. Kleidon A, Lorenz R), SpringerVerlag, pp. 4155.
 Dewar RC. 2003. Information theoretic explanation of maximum entropy production, the fluctuation theorem and selforganized criticality in nonequilibrium stationary states. Journal of Physics A (Mathematical and General) 36, 631641.