I am an evolutionary biologist, at the University of Oxford and I study social behaviours (any behaviour which is designed to impact on the fitness of another – either through helping or harming). I’m particularly interested in the origins of human social behaviour.
Research: My research was recently described in the Financial Times as ‘silo-busting’, because I work at the interface of biology and the social sciences. I am convinced that evolutionary ideas are relevant outside biology and that solutions to some of the biggest questions society faces will only be found through such radically interdisciplinary work. This is why I work with economists and business leaders who are interested in the insights the natural world can provide.
I’ve used evolutionary models to look at a wide range of issues including HIV virulence, the squid-bioluminescent bacteria mutualism, plant-fungi mutualisms, cooperative breeding in birds and policing in insects. I’m now focussing on questions of human behaviour (in particular the origins of social inequality and tribal warfare). I’m also interested in cultural evolution (and whether the tools used to study natural selection on genes can be used to study cultural change) and in exposing the widespread misconceptions in the social sciences about the evolution of cooperation.