Information is a central currency in living systems. Our work centres on understanding the ebb and flow of information in the natural world, and its profound behavioural and evolutionary consequences for organisms (including, occasionally, humans). Some areas of enduring interest include:
All organisms need to gather and exchange information with the world at large, and we are broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms, causes and evolutionary consequences of this basic challenge. Current projects are focused on understanding how suites of traits coevolve to enable communication in ‘noisy’ natural environments, how the information encoded in diverse visual cues (colour, pattern, motion) is integrated to inform crucial decisions, and the vital role of communication in shaping local adaptation and survival amidst unpredictable environmental change. We also enjoy testing and extending methods for analysing colour and vision in nature, as well as developing software that improves the accessibility of such tools.
Dis- and misinformation in nature
Deception and misinformation is rife in the natural world, including (and increasingly) among humans. Spiders pose as flowers to lure insects to their death, defenceless prey mimic the signals of the chemically defended to survive, and malicious or ill-informed actors stoke division via social media at unprecedented scale. We have an ongoing interest in misinformation, how it flows through biological and social networks, and its evolutionary consequences. The colour polymorphic lures of tropical spiders have proven a rich model in predator-prey deception, while flies present a window to sexual conflict, though many questions remain.
Natural and sexual selection in the wild
Can we predict the trajectory of evolution? How does sexual and natural selection mediate adaptation? We are keen to understand the workings of adaptive evolution in nature. Current projects span sexual selection, dynamic signalling, and local adaptation in iridescent flies, as well as the role of sensory biases in sexual and deceptive signal evolution. We are also interested in using urban environments as novel testing grounds for theory, and understanding the consequences of the human modification of sensory landscapes.