I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in Theoretical Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. My research focusses broadly on the evolutionary origins and dynamics of social behaviours, such as individual cooperation, group coordination, and cultural evolution. In previous projects I studied self-organisation and division of labour in social insects. I continued this research by looking at the effect of competition on the utility of social learning, the fundamental mechanism that allows culture to evolve. At my current position in Philadelphia, I study the co-evolution of culture and population structure.
I am interested in the complex feedbacks between individual actors, the group, and the environment. My goal is to use theory to guide research questions, produce testable hypothesis, and build bridges between the diverse disciplines involved in the study of cultural evolution.
PhD in Evolutionary Biology, 2017
University of Manchester, UK
Dioplom (MSc equivalent) in Biology, 2011
University of Würzburg, Germany
Vordiplom (BSc equivalent) in Biology, 2008
Universtiy of Jena, Germany
Cultural evolution relies on the social transmission of cultural traits along a population’s social network. Research indicates that network structure affects information spread and thus the capacity for cumulative culture. However, how network structure itself is driven by population-culture co-evolution remains largely unclear. We use a simple model to investigate how populations negotiate the trade-off between acquiring new skills and getting better at existing skills and how this trade-off shapes social networks. We find unexpected eco-evolutionary feedbacks from culture onto social networks and vice versa. We show that selecting for skill generalists results in sparse networks with diverse skill sets, whereas selecting for skill specialists results in dense networks and a population that specializes on the same few skills on which everyone is an expert. Our model advances our understanding of the complex feedbacks in cultural evolution and demonstrates how individual-level behavior can lead to the emergence of population-level structure.