Smiling for many reasons but particularly because it finally stopped raining so it was much easier to observe the chimps in the tree above me! (This was taken while I was working with the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project in Kibale National Park, Uganda, after I completed my undergraduate degree.) Photo credit: Aaron Sandel/Nathan Chesterman
Welcome to my website! Thanks for visiting!
I am fascinated by the evolution and diversity of social behavior across animal species. My research uses evolutionary frameworks and cutting-edge genomic tools to understand how evolutionary processes influence social behavior and reciprocally, how social behavior influences evolutionary processes. To tackle these questions, I integrate lab, field, and computational methods to understand the dynamics between behavior, genomes, and evolutionary processes in natural populations.
I just started a postdoctoral position with Andy Clark at Cornell University, after completing my PhD in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (affiliated with the Evolutionary Anthropology department) advised by Jenny Tung at Duke University. My graduate work leveraged hybrid zones — where two species come into contact and interbreed — as “natural laboratories” (Hewitt 1988) for understanding the relationship between genetic variation and behavior. In hybrid populations, individuals with genomes naturally shuffled by hybridization can be studied in a common environment. Similarly, studying social behavior in hybrid populations can provide insight into key evolutionary outcomes such as the maintenance or collapse of species boundaries. Further, hybridization in and of itself is fascinating! Only a few decades ago, researchers thought that animals rarely hybridized and yet, in recent years, mounting evidence suggests that hybridization is actually quite common and may be the rule rather than the exception. My PhD work focused on answering (i) what maintains taxonomic integrity in the face of gene flow between species, including genetic, behavioral, and ecological barriers, and (ii) the possible costs and benefits to hybridization, including effects on social and mating behavior.
Stay tuned for upcoming papers from my PhD research and new work from my postdoc!
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