Our research focuses on how the phenotype – particularly behavior – of non-human animals and humans influences their social and physical environment, and the consequences of these influences on the development and evolution of behavior. We ask how individuals impact their social and physical environment through 1) the direct and indirect effects of their phenotypes on the behavior and dynamics of group-mates, competitors, mates and antagonists like predators and pathogens, and 2) their decisions to move to new groups or locations. We are interested in how these effects interact with patterns of social organization, habitat use, within-group cooperation and conflict, information use, and disease dynamics, and, ultimately, how these feed back to influence development and selection.
Ongoing projects include
Network Dynamics and Conflict Management in a Cichlid Fish
Human and non-human animals live in “social networks” of interactions and relationships. How do these social networks change after conflict over things such as opportunities to reproduce or opportunities to gain social status? Do networks change in ways that make conflict worse in the future, or do they change in ways that prevent conflict from re-emerging? We are exploring how social networks form and change after conflict in the cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher. These fish are “cooperative breeders” that live in relatively stable, long-lasting groups. Some individuals – usually social subordinates – experience little direct reproduction and care for the offspring of other group members. Our work on social networks in this species includes:
a) Exploring the influences of third parties on social interactions.
b) Exploring the influences of neighboring groups on within-group interactions.
c) Exploring the responses of social networks to perturbations, such as exposure to neighbors or removal of group members.
Social Status, Personality, and Information Use in Cichlid Fishes
Animals may benefit from using information gained from others. However, the salience of information from others may vary depending on individual state. Further, if attention is limited, individuals may not pay attention to all individuals in a social group equally. Differences other than social status may also influence information use. Individuals differing in ‘personality’ may acquire or use social information differently. We are exploring how social status and personality of demonstrators and observers influences attention and transmission of information in groups of two highly social African cichlid fish, N. pulcher and Julidochromis ornatus.