The College of Life Sciences

Peck, Steven


Email: 6Yzk|kteVkiqFh{4kj{  (Email Form)


4145  LSB
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-4145

Associate Professor

Curriculum Vitae

Grew up in Moab, Utah.
 Teaching Interests
After twelve years at BYU, I have a growing sense of what it means to be a teacher. My philosophy continues to evolve and it has been refined significantly since my arrival. It now orbits around the idea that individual students matter. Deeply. I have come to appreciate the unique character and potential of each of these young (and sometimes not so young) men and women at BYU. I have the opportunity to touch their lives in ways that will leave a lasting impact. I have delighted in my interactions with the students here. My philosophy centers on the idea that each student is precious and has something to contribute. I try to communicate not only knowledge (and I still feel that is vital), but to communicate some of my enthusiasm for the subjects I teach, and some of the changes that this knowledge has brought into my life.

I was impressed at a GE teaching conference with the idea that we physically change a student's brain. We can leave an indelible mark that will continue to shape and change their future. I can think of several teachers I had at BYU that changed my life, not only by what they taught, but by how they taught it, and even more important, who they were and how they lived their life. Their example, their enthusiasm, engendered in me a desire to be something different, or do something different than I had ever considered. They changed my life. My hope is I can be that kind of teacher. One that not only panders in facts and theory, but one that is passionate about the subject, and inspires students with the same.

I have also tried to combine the goals of academic rigor with the importance and compatibility of spirituality and the sciences. Being at BYU is a dream come true because I have always believed that science and faith are vital aspects of genuine scholarship. It was been a delight to teach at a university where this ideal is not only permitted, but encouraged.

 Research Interests
My research moves among three dimensions. Viewed from any single dimension, people have commented that I look scattered. The truth is that I've approached all my research from philosophical, theoretical, and empirical perspectives leading to publications in all three arenas. While in today's scientific climate the role of the generalist is often disparaged, I believe that it has added depth and insights to the field that could have been realized in no other way. The unifying theme of my research has been evolutionary ecology, especially as it relates to movement characteristics of dipteran insects.

I'm going to give a brief historical view of my research because it better explains the patterns and treads that I have followed in my research. My PhD in biomathematics and entomology trained me vigorously in the necessity of theory and especially an appreciation of theory vis-à-vis empirical work. Throughout my doctorate program, I was employed as a field biologist for an EPA project called EMAP for which I was the 'Insect Indicator Lead.' The idea of EMAP was to find biological indicators that gave a sense of the integrated ecological condition of agroecosystems. This was straight-up field biology looking at ant ecology. All the while I was doing this, I was working on large-scale simulation models of resistance management in transgenic plants. The models incorporated population genetics, ecology, and human management, and eventually were used by the EPA to set policy on how resistance is managed in transgenic cropping systems. The findings of these models, while revolutionary and novel at the time of their creation, have since been empirically validated.. This balance of empirical and theoretical work continued as I took a job as Research Scientist with the USDA-Agriculture Research Service the research arm of the USDA. There, I continued to do field studies and develop theoretical simulation models of basic evolutionary and ecological processes—grounding me in two worlds that are often approached by different people. My field studies were being published in journals like, The Journal of Economic Entomology and Environmental Entomology and my theory papers were being published in journals like, Evolution, Biological Theory, Trends in Microbiology, and American Naturalist.
I would have been content with my theory/empirical split, but a third dimension, philosophy, soon became necessary to my work. I had sent in a grant application to the USDA, and while most of the reviews were favorable, one gave me a ‘poor’ and the reason given was, "This is just a simulation model, and they are almost completely worthless." It was a shocker as it was the bread and butter of my research program, but I began to review the literature and there had been some very poor simulation models published and a controversy about their use had been bubbling for a long time. Philosophers of science were just staring to take an interest in simulation, and being a simulation modeler gave me some insights that turned out to be useful in their growing interest in computer simulation. Thus began my 'Philosophical Turn' and I've had the chance to make significant contributions in the philosophy of modeling and simulation with papers published in journals such as, Trends in Evolution and Ecology, Biology and Philosophy, Philosophy & Theory in Biology, and Philosophy Study. These papers take significant time to develop as I have had to essentially retrain myself in a new field to adequately engage with philosophers, but my efforts have been rewarded substantially.
You will notice that I've also dabbled in theology—this because I have questions that I want to explore about the meaning of life in all its aspects. These are not mere dogmatic treatises, but serious attempts to grapple with difficult questions of meaning and ethics. I recognize that from most scientist’s perspectives I am shooting myself in the foot, nevertheless, I've found such questions both productive and entertaining, especially at a religiously owned college where most of the students are curious about such matters.
In 2009, my work with a wide area project in Hawaii, for which I provided both empirical and theoretical support, ended and I am currently actively pursuing funding to work on tsetse flies in Africa. In the last three years I did a sabbatical at the United Nations-IAEA, who are actively trying to develop tsetse fly control programs in Africa. Through these contacts, I have developed deep ties to the tsetse world. I have just published a paper overviewing the use of mathematical models in tsetse fly research (Journal of Economic Entomology), and my first theoretical study of the effect of metapopulation dynamics on fly extinction was just accepted in Ecological Modelling. I have travelled to Africa four times in the last three years to get to know the system and develop contacts. Two NSF grants have been applied for and denied but have come close every time (this last round with four 'very goods' and one 'poor' which had but two sentences about how this did not seem to fit what the program was designed to cover). In any case, I will continue to seek funding for working on tsetse flies. Until that funding comes in, I'll continue to work on philosophy, for which all I need is a pencil, some paper, and a comfy armchair. (Jest)
I hope you get a sense from this why my CV looks scattered. Viewed along certain dimensions it does look rather varied and unfocused, but spin the axes around a little and the pattern becomes clear as to what I'm doing, in which I have explored empirical, theoretical, and philosophical questions about the nature of evolutionary processes in agroecosystems through the use of simulation models and tackled those questions from a number of perspectives.
  • Philosophy of Science Association, 2003-Present
  • Entomological Society of America, 1993-Present
 Honors and Awards
  • Association of Mormon Literature : Best Novel Published in 2011
  • Collage of Life Sciences : Collage Teaching Award
 Courses Taught

Fall 2014
  • BIO 370: Bioethics Section 001, 002, 003, 007
Winter 2014
  • BIO 370: Bioethics Section 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009
  • BIO 555: Evolutionary & Ecol Modeling Section 001
Fall 2013
  • BIO 370: Bioethics Section 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009
  • BIO 470: History&Philosophy of Biology Section 001
Summer 2013
  • BIO 699R: Master's Thesis Section 004

Selected Publications
Journal Articles

Peck SL. Perspectives on why digital ecologies matter: Combining population genetics and ecologically informed agent-based models with GIS for managing dipteran livestock pests. Acta Tropica. 2014 Aug;138:S22–S25. <website>

Vargas RI, Stark JD, Banks J, Manoukis NC, Leblanc L, Peck SL. Spatial Dynamics of Two Oriental Fruit Fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) Parasitoids, Fopius arisanus (Sonan) and Diachasmimorpha longicaudata (Ashmead) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), in a Guava Orchard in Hawaii, manuscript. Environmental Entomology. 2013 Sep;42(5):888-901. <website>

Peck SL. Digital Ecologies as Tractarian Systems. Philosophy Study. 2013 Jan;3(1):64-69. <website>

Peck SL, Bouyer J. Mathematical modeling, spatial complexity, and critical decisions in tsetse control. Journal of Economic Entomology. 2012 Sep;105(5):1477-1486. <website>

Peck SL. Networks of habitat patches in tsetse fly control: implications of metapopulation structure on assessing local extinction probability. Ecological Modelling. 2012 Aug;246:99-102. <website>

Peck SL. Agent-based models as fictive instantiations of ecological processes. Philosophy & Theory in Biology. 2012 Apr;vol. 4(e303):12. <website>

Froerer KM, Peck SL, McQuate GT. Evaluation Of Readmission Ink As A Marker For Dispersal Studies With Bactrocera Dorsalis (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Insect Science. 2011 Sep;11(125):6 pages. <website>

Peck SL. Why Nature Matters: A Special Issue of Dialogue on Mormonism and the Environment. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 2011 Jul;44(2):1-5. <website>

Froerer KM, Peck SL, McQuate GT, Vargas RI, McInnis DO. Long-distance Movement of 'Bactrocera dorsalis (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Puna, Hawaii: How far 'can' they go?. American Entomologist. 2010 Jul;56(2):88-94. <website>


Peck SL. Using agent-based models to explore the effect of ecological complexity on tsetse suppression programs. Pacific Branch Meeting of the ESA. Tucson, AZ. 2014 Apr.

Peck SL. Evolution and LDS Thought are Fully Compatible: Overcoming our Suspicions of Science. 2013 Interpreter Symposium on Science & Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth & Man. Provo, UT. 2013 Nov.

Peck SL. The effect of ecological complexity on tsetse suppression programs. Applying GIS and Population Genetics for Managing Livestock Insect Pest. London, UK. 2013 Apr.

Peck SL. New Wine in Old Bottles? Novel Philosophical Problems in Representing Ecological Systems with Agent-Based Models. Models and Simulations 4. Toronto, Canada. 2010 May.

Peck SL. Understanding Tsetse Fly Complexity using Simulation Models. Applying GIS and Population Genetics for Managing Livestock Insect Pests. Bali, Indonesia. 2010 Feb.

Peck SL. Use of the metapopulation theory and individual-based models to improve pest control. Quels outils pour un changement d'échelle dans la gestion des insectes d’intérêt économique ? (New tools for a change of scale in pest management). Montpellier, France. 2001 Oct.

Technical Report

Caprio M, Hellmich R, Onstad D, Peck SL. Framework for Evaluation of IRM Models. 2011 Aug.