Who am I?

My original background and training was in field biology and bioacoustics. During undergraduate, I worked in Emily Lemmon’s lab at Florida State University on chorus frog bioacoustics and on primate ultrasonic vocalizations at The Duke University Lemur Center. I first began a PhD at Texas A&M University in 2016 to study primate bioacoustics and language evolution. In 2018, I joined The Music Lab under Samuel Mehr’s tutelage as a visiting graduate student to work on questions regarding the evolution of infant-directed song and speech. In 2019, I mastered out of my previous PhD program with a thesis on the mimicry of animals by human hunters with Jeff Winking. I then worked for some time in think tanks in Washington, DC. In 2020, I was happy to come back to academia to work on models of innovation and human institutions with Paul Smaldino at the University of California, Merced, where I am today.

What do I study?

My research takes a broad approach to study the evolution of humans and the societies we live in. In recent years my research interests have pivoted to the difficult problem of modeling innovation. To this end, I have conducted research in three, broad, disparate regions:

  1. My current research is largely reflected in the fields of cultural evolution and organizational theory where I research innovation from a “collective intelligence” perspective. My main questions here primarily relate to the structure of organizations and their lifespans where I ask: what are the processes leading to the evolution of organizational structure, how can organizations and groups of agents organize themselves to best leverage information in their environments, and what structures make institutions and groups vulnerable to collapse? I approach these questions from an agent-based modeling and theoretical standpoint.
  2. A second branch of my research is situated in evolutionary psychology and langauge evolution from a bioacoustic and sensory ecology perspective. Here I have asked questions about the origins of language, proto-language, and music. My approach in this area has mostly involved large-scale corpus research of both acoustic and text-based datasets.
  3. Finally, I have an interest in the broad concept of “modularity” as it pertains to neural networks, collective intelligence, gene regulatory networks, and human mental adaptations. Here I take both a philosophical and a modeling approach to the problem, seeking to find generalities between questions of innovation, adaptation, and evolvability in these disparate systems.

What else?

I also have an amateur interest in Byzantine and Central European history, the history and philosophy of science, and am learning to text scrape historical documents for citation analysis for fun. I also have flintknapping and primitive archery as my favorite hobbies.

Here is a plot I made by text-scraping a number of first-edition documents in evolutionary biology published during the first ten years after Darwin’s Origin of Species. I am interested in the relationship between path dependence and innovation and would like to identify people with important insights that history may have forgottten.