My research interests and those of my students revolve around understanding the adaptive significance of animal social behavior. On the one hand, we study the role of ecological, social, and genetic relatedness factors in shaping the structure of animal societies; on the other, we unravel the "rules" that govern the social interactions that occur among individuals living within different societies. In our work, we blend the development of conceptual theory with rigorous empirical testing of specific a priori hypotheses. Much of our research involves field work, making detailed observations and performing experimental manipulations on individually-marked populations of organisms.
My own research currently concentrates on three topics: (1) seeking general rules of social interactions among organisms that live in family groupings (i.e. predicting the "family dynamics" of animals, including humans), (2) expanding social theory as it pertains to sharing versus suppressing of reproduction among members of social groups (i.e. expanding and testing "optimal reproductive skew" theory), and (3) studying conflicts of interest between male and female mates over sexual and parental behaviors (i.e. understanding the "battle of the sexes" from an evolutionary perspective). Much of this work has been supported by the National Science Foundation.