My research focuses on how the evolution of cooperation and the evolution of communication are driven by ecological factors.  Below are a few past projects:


Public Goods Cooperation in Virtual Biofilms

Population of cooperators (blue), cheaters (gray), and empty space (white) in the Avida Virtual Biofilm Model

We’ve studied cooperation through public goods creation using a virtual biofilm environment. Organisms can complete tasks which produce a resource that enables them and their neighbors to persist in an adverse environment. Since organisms can simply benefit from the resource production of their neighbors, this creates the possibility for cheaters to arise. This work looks at how different environmental conditions enable populations to maintain cooperators.

Related Publications:

  • [PDF] B. D. Connelly and P. K. McKinley, “Evolving social behavior in adverse environments,” in Proceedings of 10th european conference on articial life, 2009, pp. 498-498.
    author={Connelly, Brian D. AND McKinley, Philip K.},
    title={Evolving Social Behavior in Adverse Environments},
    booktitle={Proceedings of 10th European Conference on Articial Life}
  • [PDF] B. D. Connelly, B. E. Beckmann, and P. K. McKinley, “Resource abundance promotes the evolution of public goods cooperation,” in Proceedings of the genetic and evolutionary computation conference, 2010, pp. 143-150.
    author={Connelly, Brian D. AND Beckmann, Benjamin E. AND McKinley, Philip K.},
    title={Resource Abundance Promotes the Evolution of Public Goods Cooperation},
    booktitle={Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference},

Effects of Social Structure

The neighborhood of individuals that an organism interacts with can have a large effect on the maintenance of diversity and cooperation. It has frequently been observed that random (well-mixed) interactions often hinder diversity, while localized interactions can help to maintain diversity. In this work, we examine how the network of interactions within populations affects diversity. We examine the space between highly-localized and well-mixed interactions finding that biodiversity is quickly lost as the number of neighbors with which an organism can interact is increased.

Related Publications:

  • [PDF] B. D. Connelly, L. Zaman, C. Ofria, and P. K. McKinley, “Social structure and the maintenance of biodiversity,” in Proceedings of the 12th international conference on the synthesis and simulation of living systems (alife), 2010, pp. 461-468.
    title={Social Structure and the Maintenance of Biodiversity},
    author={Connelly, Brian D. AND Zaman, Luis AND Ofria, Charles AND McKinley, Philip K.},
    booktitle={Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE)},