I am interested in the evolution of cooperative behaviour because it poses a special problem for evolutionary theory - how can selection favour a behaviour that reduces reproductive success? The question is important, not just so we can gain an insight into striking examples such as colonies of social insects or meerkat groups, but because it is fundamental to understanding life as we know it: the evolution of the genome, the eukaryotic cell and multicellular organisms.
In previous years, my main focus has been the use of the bacterial system Pseudomonas aeruginosa, as an experimental system for testing predictions of social evolution theory.
My current projects fall into two main categories:
- The application of social evolution theory to understand clinical problems of bacterial infection.
- The use of meta-analysis to test predictions of social evolution theory in patterns across species, primarily cooperatively breeding birds.
I am also the 2008 UNESCO/L’Oreal Fellow For Women In Science.