My lab studies the evolution of social systems, typically social breeding systems as one might see in ant, termite or some bee and wasp societies. The key to understanding how queen, worker, soldier etc. castes evolve is to consider the fitness consequences to each participant, now, and in the distant past when divisions in labor were just forming. For this, we defer to inclusive fitness theory, which explains why, in certain cases, selection may favor cooperation or even self-sacrifice as fitness maximizing behaviors. Inclusive fitness theory is a very powerful source of ideas and supports the rational design of experiments. The theory is also routinely misunderstood and occasionally victimized by iconoclasts. In our lab, we work to understand these issues to best design, deliver and communicate our science to the widest possible audience. 

Currently, we focus our studies onto honey bee societies - first, as one of many possible models in the study of social evolution, and second, as a practical species of interest from agri- and pop-culture. We are also enjoying new collaborations with microbiologists, who have tuned our attention towards the important role that microbes play in the evolution and expression of behavior, and even how microbes themselves constitute a society within individual bees. The microbiology of sociobiology if you will. From this theoretical standpoint, we can consider how gut microbes function to aid bee digestion and nutrition, as well as fend off disease and other types of environmental stress. We have shown, for example, that feeding honey bees a precise mixture of bacterial strains can help them avoid the worse symptoms of a disease and augment queen productivity, with much more to come.