Measuring spatial fluxes of
swarming bark beetles in the
wilds of Louisiana
"Highly cited researcher" ISIHighlyCited.com
Current areas of research
I work at the interface between biological, mathematical, and social sciences. The general area of interest is human history and evolution. Currently, I focus on two specific projects within this broad area.
Although we have recently made great strides in understanding how human sociality evolved in the context of small groups integrated by face-to-face interactions, we still lack understanding of how humans became an ultrasocial species. We are unique in our ability to cooperate in huge groups (millions and more members) of genetically unrelated individuals. I believe this puzzle can be solved by applying the theory of multilevel selection. Briefly, human societies grew in size by making repeated transitions from lower-level groups to higher-level meta-groups (that is, groups of groups). Critical factors enabling such transitions were the selective force imposed by warfare and processes maintaing cultural variation between groups (and meta-groups).
The second project investigates the mechanisms of long-term oscillations in population sizes of historical societies. It turns out that population dynamics are linked with cycles of internal warfare, as well as disease waves (including such pandemics as the Black Death). I am currently attempting to understand how these variables dynamically interact with each other, and how the system is affected by such exogenous factors as climate fluctuations.
More details are on my Cliodynamics web page