My research

I am an evolutionary biologist with an interest in dynamics: how does what happens during evolution influence evolution? What can we predict of the world around us when we include how it changes in the process?

I research behaviour. Once the physiological machinery that produces a behaviour is in place, how does performing the behaviour influence its own evolution, alone and in a social context?

Project #1: Evolution of collective behaviour and self-organisation

At the moment, I am working on collective nest building in a European species of ant. This behaviour relies on self-organisation, a set of mechanisms that coordinate individual actions based on shared simple rules and on feedback loops. I am asking how well self-organisation deal with the complexity of inter-individual differences and of ecological noise. To do this, I need further information on the function of the nest and the mechanisms that enable creating it. For this reason, I combine a set of simple behavioural experiments that can inform me about nest function with a theoretical modelling approach that reproduces the dynamics of building and what happens when we modify them.

# Ultimate question: how does self-organisation cope with noise?


Project #2: Early-career Social Learning Researchers (ESLR)

I contribute to the organisation of an early-career society focused on social learning and cultural evolution. Cultural evolution is a relatively new study field where you see complex dynamics being reciprocally influenced by behaviour. I am also interested in forwarding the training of early-career researchers from any disciplines, enabling research networks and help address and push the dialogue on research career issues, such as work-life balance. If you feel one of these two topics, check us out.

Goals:

# Threading an interdisciplinary network of researchers in social learning and cultural evolution

# Contribute to creating a more balanced work model for academic researchers, that include both family life and engagement with the society at wide


Project #3: Fitness landscape, population structure and models of fitness

An evolutionary theory project. Can we extrapolate common features in how elements of the system modelled – the presence of a reproductive hierarchy, the degree to which the population is divided into subpopulations – affect the walk in a fitness landscape? I use a method from engineering, genetic algorithms, to test how some of these elements influence the evolutionary trajectory.

# Ultimate question: how do features of the evolutionary process influence the evolutionary trajectory?


Project #4: The evolution of human cultural traits

I am interested in evolutionary dynamics applied to culture. What dynamics are at place? How many rely on fitness-driven mechanisms and can we pin down intermediate dynamics where cultural mechanisms create change that it is not itself adaptive? This is an old project that is now paused but that I hope to get a chance to go back to.

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