Cooperation has existed in nature since the first multicellular organisms appeared several billion years ago. Since then, species ranging from bacteria to bees to humans have evolved to cooperate in countless complex and not so complex ways. Yet despite this ubiquity, cooperation has remained a difficult challenge facing evolutionary biology. How can cooperation evolve and avoid exploitation by those who take advantage of its benefits without themselves contributing?

My research uses computational and microbial systems to focus on the role that ecology, including both the environment and the interactions occurring among individuals, plays in determining whether or not cooperative behaviors can be maintained. I also study the adaptations that allow cooperators to persist in ever-changing environments—even when cooperation is not a viable strategy. Through this research, we can gain key insights into the origins of cooperation and how it evolves. It can also be instrumental in a wide range of applications from the development of new treatments for bacterial infections to engineering better communication systems.

More to come...