Ecology and Evolution Discussions Down Under: Cooperation in the visible and the invisible

Invited Panel: Michael Jennions, Shakti Lamba, Mark Elgar

Natural selection in the realm of the invisible
Ashleigh Griffin (Oxford University, UK)

Darwin worked out his theory of natural selection by carefully watching animals behave, and making sense of his observations in the context of their natural habitat. But the process of adaptation by natural selection applies just as much to organisms that we’re not able to observe. So, what is the equivalent of Darwin's voyage in The Beagle when trying to understand microscopic behaviors of organisms such as bacteria, and even viruses? Can we ever understand how natural selection acts to produce cooperative behaviors in organisms that live in a realm where even the laws of physics apply differently? In my talk I’ll describe some of the challenges involved but also describe how we’ve been able to make some progress.

Ashleigh Griffin is Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. She began her career as a PhD student studying cooperative behavior in meerkats and since then has developed two main areas of focus in her research: looking for patterns in behavior across cooperatively breeding mammals and birds, and trying to understand social behavior in bacteria, especially in species which cause human disease.

The strategic and evolutionary foundations of cooperation
Lionel Page (University Technology, Sydney)

For a long time, economics was associated with a model assuming that individuals are selfish. The evidence that it is not the case is now widely accepted: humans care about others’ fates, about others’ intentions and about moral principles. I will present the fascinating game theoretic and evolutionary foundations of these social behaviours. My talk will be based on a chapter from my book (forthcoming sometime): “Optimally irrational”

Lionel is an economist at the University Technology Sydney. He has published extensively in a wide range of areas with a special interest in behavioural economics (social preferences, risk preferences, strategic behaviour). He received the 2016 Young Economist prize of the Economics Society of Australia and his research has often featured in the media.