Striped hyenas

I have studied the incipiently social striped hyena Hyaena hyaena as a model species for evolutionary ecology research focused into the origins of sociality. Data from H. hyaena are valuable for addressing questions about the evolution of group formation, a prerequisite for the evolution of true social behaviors. Specifically, my research has focused on identifying the set(s) of environmental conditions (e.g. resource conditions) that determine whether the sharing of spatial and food resources is an evolutionary 'permitted' strategy and, once permitted, what additional external pressure promote the further development of cooperative social strategies.

Digital evolution

We are developing the digital evolution platform Avida as a tool for furthering our understanding of the evolution of complex behaviors, such as group formation, cooperation, and predator-prey dynamics. In this work, we are expanding the ecological 'sophistication' of Avida, evaluating the potential of new virtual hardware architectures for permitting the evolution of truly dynamic, intelligent behavioral control algorithms in autonomous agents, and testing hypotheses regarding the role of environmental conditions, competition, and negative niche effects (e.g. the effects of predators on prey 'niches') in promoting the evolution of complexity and intelligence.