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  • Research interests

    My research focuses on population models, usually based on matrices, for plants, animals, and humans.  I am interested in stochastic processes in demography, including individual stochasticity (random outcomes of individual lives, affecting indices such as longevity), demographic stochasticity (random growth of populations generated by the stochastic outcomes of survival and reproduction), and environmental stochasticity (fluctuations in the vital rates that affect all members of the population). I study both basic theory and the application of that theory, especially to evolutionary questions and to environmental questions related to climate change.

    Beyond individuals, it is notable that family dynamics are important for the life histories of humans and of some kinds of animals: primates, whales, some birds, and social insects in particular. Matrix population models may provide an important analytical tool to explore the patterns of kinship and family structures implied by particular sets of demographic processes.


    A new (2019) book, on sensitivity analysis of population models. Sensitivity analysis is an important part of any modelling study, because it shows how much the results (whatever those may be) would change in response to changes in the parameters of the model (whatever they may be). The book is open access and available to download here:
    Some other books.
  • CV and publication list

    You can download a CV with a complete list of publications here.

  • Current projects

    Some of the projects I am currently involved in:

    • Stochasticity and heterogeneity in lifetime reproductive output. Using Markov chains with rewards to calculate the variance in lifetime reproductive output that is implied by any set of age- or stage-specific demographic rates, without the need to invoke individual heterogeneity. Comparisons across species and in historical series of human populations.
    • Eco-evolutionary dynamics. Combining ecological and demographic processes, using matrix population models, with evolutionary dynamics at the level of single-locus Mendelian genetics.
    • Mathematics of demographic models and Markov chains. Developing comprehensive mathematical treatments of second-order demographic models, ageXstage-classified models, cause of death analyses, and properties of multistate Markov chains.
    • Matrix approaches to health demography. Using matrices to incorporate both prevalence-based and incidence-based models for healthy longevity. Focusing on extending results from a preoccupation with means to inclusion of variances and higher moments.
    • Matrix methods for the analysis of family and kinship structures.
    • Sensitivity analysis in ecology and demography.  Any population model implies a relationship between the parameter values and the outcomes of the model. Sensitivity analysis attempts to determine how changes in the parameters would translate into changes in the outcomes. I am applying matrix calculus methods to carry out sensitivity analysis of population projections, demographic variances, second-order demographic models, ageXstage-classified models, and models for cause of death.
    • Seabird ecology. In collaboration with researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, I am working on demographic models for Antarctic seabirds (fulmars, albatrosses) with a focus on identifying and projecting effects of climate change.
    • A matrix formulation of the analysis of causes of death. Organisms, including humans, are subject to a variety of causes of death. These causes are competing risks, because while the individual is at risk from all of them, only one can, in the end, be the cause of death. There is a long tradition of calculating the results of competing risks; this project is using matrix methods to carry out all the traditional analyses and more.





    Symposium: The Future of Demography. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany. October 2017.
  • ERC Advanced Grants

    I have been fortunate enough to receive two Advanced Grants from the European Research Commission. The new one, beginning in June 2018, is The Formal Demography of Kinship and Family. Its goal is to develop a complete formal demographic structure for studying kinship at the individual, cohort, and population levels. Kinship structures arise from the relation betwen parents and offspring and spread out in directions both earlier (ancestors) and later (descendents) in time. This project is funded through the social science panel at ERC, and is focused on human kinship dynamics. However, it has not escaped my notice that kinship is also an important issue for some non-human species. I intend to investigate these interactions as well; the complexity of life cycles in the plant and animal kingdoms provides plenty of challenges for analysis.

    My previous ERC Advanced Grant, Individual stochasticity and population heterogeneity in plant and animal demography (2013-2018) has developed new approaches to partitioning variance in demographic outcomes into contributions from heterogeneity (genuine differences among individuals) and stochasticity (random differences from probabilistic demographic events). A series of publications from the research team has produced new methods for matrix population models, Markov chains, sensitivity analysis, and statistical analyses. We have applied the results to populations of humans, laboratory studies of insects, and field studies of birds. Results will continue to accumulate for quite some time!  My list of publications available on another tab here will give an idea of where we are at this point.

    look it's a beetle
    look, it's a beach
  • Publications


    • Ackleh, A. S., Caswell, H., Chiquet, R. A., Tang, T., & Veprauskas, A. (2019). Sensitivity analysis of the recovery time for a population under the impact of an environmental disturbance. Natural Resource Modeling, 32(1), [e12166]. [details]
    • Caswell, H. (2019). Sensitivity Analysis: Matrix Methods in Demography and Ecology. (Demographic Research Monographs). Springer Nature Switzerland AG .
    • Caswell, H. (2019). The formal demography of kinship: A matrix formulation. Demographic Research, 41, 679-712.
    • Jenouvrier, S., Holland, M., Iles, D. T., Labrousse, S., Landrum, L., Garnier, J., ... Barbraud, C. (2019). The Paris Agreement objectives will likely halt future declines of emperor penguins. Global Change Biology, 00, 1-15. 10.1111/gcb.14864
    • Reimer, J., Caswell, H., Derocher, A. E., & Lewis, M. A. (2019). Ringed seal demography in a changing climate. Ecological Applications, [e01855].
    • Seaman, R., Riffe, T., & Caswell, H. (2019). The changing contribution of area-level deprivation to total variance in age at death: A population-based decomposition analysis. BMJ Open, 9, [e024952 ].
    • de Vries, C., & Caswell, H. (2019). Selection in two-sex stage-structured populations: Genetics, demography, and polymorphism. Theoretical Population Biology, 160-169.
    • de Vries, C., & Caswell, H. (2019). Stage-structured evolutionary demography: Linking life histories, population genetics, and ecological dynamics. American Naturalist, 193(4), 545-559. [details]
    • de Vries, C., Desharnais, R., & Caswell, H. (Accepted/In press). A matrix model for density-dependent selection in stage-classified populations, with application to pesticide resistance in Tribolium. Ecological Modelling.
    • van Daalen, S. F., & Caswell, H. (Accepted/In press). Demographic sources of variance in fitness. In R. Sear, O. Burger, & R. Lee (Eds.), Human Evolutionary Demography
    • van Daalen, S. F., & Caswell, H. (Accepted/In press). Variance as a life history outcome: Sensitivity analysis of the contributions of stochasticity and heterogeneity. Ecological Modelling.







    • Jones, O. R., Scheuerlein, A., Salguero-Gómez, R., Camarda, C. G., Schaible, R., Casper, B. B., ... Vaupel, J. (2013). Diversity of ageing across the tree of life. Nature, 505, 169-173. [details]


    • Caswell, H. (2000-2017). Elected member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Talk / presentation

    • Caswell, H. (speaker) (7-2017). Matrix population models: from the individual to the population, International Linear Algebra Society, Ames, Iowa, United States.
    • de Vries, L. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (15-2-2017). A genetic matrix population model for eco-evolutionary dynamics., Netherlands Annual Ecological Meeting, Lunteren.
    • Ouellete, N. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (9-2016). Mortality and causes of death: matrix formulation and sensitivity analysis, European Population Conference 2016, Mainz, Germany.
    • Sanchez Gassen, N. E. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (9-2016). The sensitivity and elasticity analysis of multistate population projections., European Population Conference 2016, Mainz, Germany.
    • Caswell, H. (speaker) (6-2016). The contribution of individual stochasticity to variance in fitness components, Paris Workshop on Fitness and Adaptation 2016, Paris, France.
    • Sanchez Gassen, N. E. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (5-2016). Projecting population ageing and population decline in Europe, 2013-2080: Estimating the sensitivity and elasticity of projection results, Annual Meeting 2016, Population Association of America, San Diego, CA, San Diego, United States.
    • Hartemink, N. A. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (5-2016). Matrix models for heterogeneous frailty: partitioning the variance in longevity., Annual meeting of the NVTB (dutch society for theoretical biology), Schoorl, Netherlands.
    • van Daalen, S. F. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (11-2015). The mean, variance, and other statistics of lifetime reproduction implied by the mortality and fertility schedules in developed countries., Dutch Demography Society, Utrecht, Netherlands.
    • Sanchez Gassen, N. E. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (11-2015). Population ageing and population decline in Europe, 2013-2080: Estimating the sensitivity and elasticity of projection results, Dutch Demography Society, Utrecht, Netherlands.
    • Hartemink, N. A. (speaker), Missov, T. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (11-2015). Matrix models for heterogeneous frailty: partitioning the variance in longevity, Dutch Demography Society, Utrecht, Netherlands.
    • Caswell, H. (speaker) (10-2015). How heterogeneity works: an outline of a general demographic theory, Evolutionary Demography Society Annual Meeting 2015.
    • de Vries, C. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (10-2015). Demography when history matters: a framework for investigating second-order matrix population models, Evolutionary Demography Society Annual Meeting 2015.
    • van Daalen, S. F. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (10-2015). Variation in lifetime reproduction: individual stochasticity and heterogeneity., Evolutionary Demography Society Annual Meeting 2015.
    • Hartemink, N. A. (speaker), Missov, T. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (10-2015). Patterns in frailty in human populations: a comparison between countries, sexes, and periods, Evolutionary Demography Society Annual Meeting 2015.
    • Roth, G. (speaker) & Caswell, H. (speaker) (10-2015). Introducing hypermatrix models, Evolutionary Demography Society Annual Meeting 2015.


    • Caswell, H. (organiser) (1-2016). Short course: Matrix Approaches to Health Demography, Rostock, Germany (organising a conference, workshop, ...).


    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • Stichting School of Tai Chi Chuan
      Volunteer teacher of Tai Chi
    • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
      Emeritus Research Scholar
    • University of Southern Denmark
      Honorary Professor of Biodemography
    • Max Planck Institute for Demographic Res
      Distinguished Research Scholar