Organismal Biology

The startling diversity of life has long been the primary inspiration for basic and applied research in many fields. Understanding the morphology, development, behavior, and physiology of organisms is a central core of ecology and evolution programs. The combination of taxon-specific biological science with recent advances in experimental methods, genomics and molecular biology, and comparative phylogenetic methods has yielded a new field: integrative organismal systems.

EEMB scientists working in the field of integrative organismal systems discover and characterize the diversity of morphology and behavior across the domains of life, and use quantitative analysis to explain the evolution and function of these discoveries. The tremendous diversity of form and function in nature necessitate both an in depth focus on model systems and a comparative phylogenetic approach encompassing broad groups of taxa. The goal of research in the broad area of organismal biology is to explain the structure and function of organisms in terms of their evolutionary history and ecological context. This includes the use of comparative phylogenetic approaches to the study of development, physiology, and functional form. Integrative organismal systems is a highly integrative field, linking organismal and evolutionary biology to ecological science.

Research Areas

The study of how variation in behavior relates to variation in survival, reproduction, and evolutionary fitness, linking natural selection on behavioral strategies to ecological and environmental variation.

Clarkia exilis

EEMB plant scientists study invasive species, plant effects on soil processes, adaptation, controls over diversity, phenological responses to climate change, and the molecular basis of evolution.

Microbial Ecology

EEMB’s microbial ecologists study the ecological and evolutionary relationship between microbial organisms and how they interact and control the biogeochemistry of the biosphere.

Orchid Bee in flight

Interdisciplinary science that investigates how organisms function in the context of ecology, evolution and adaptation to environmental change. Studies typically integrate levels of organization spanning molecules, organelles, cells, tissues and organs to whole organisms.


Biological research on animals, examining their ecology, evolution, physiology and behavior, often with a focus on their natural history.