Professor of Plant ecology and evolution; evolution and human affairs
“Our research discoveries support the conservation and management of wild species, their natural habitats, and the ecosystem services of which they are a part, and on which humanity depends”
Research: My main research goals involve the development and exploration of: (i) new ideas for understanding how particular traits are important in defining differences in the abilities of plants to leave descendants within natural vegetation; and (ii) novel hypotheses for the evolutionary roots of human nature, social life and culture. I aim to design studies that provide more than just another example of well-established theory, and studies in which negative results have potential to make a significant contribution (because a study that anticipates only positive results in advance is pointless; its results just confirm what one already knows must be true). My guiding theme: it is better to be wrong than boring.
Teaching: My emphasis in teaching mirrors that of my research. Students learn a deeper understanding of how species diversity is generated, and why it is more limited in some habitats than others. They also learn how the current crises of human civilization (including its continuing decimation of species diversity), are a product of the long journey of human evolution and of what it has made us to be, through effects of natural selection in the ancestral past.
Course topics: Botany / diversity of the plant kingdom, Population and evolutionary ecology, Community and ecosystem ecology, Evolution and human affairs