Cooperation can help participants, sometimes at a cost to others. We study exactly what this means at the extremes of sociality, where some individuals give up their lives for others. The short answer within species is that individuals help relatives. The fascinating details include conflicts of interest, pleiotropy, and mechanisms that enforce cooperation. We also study cooperation between species, where everyone must benefit for the system to evolve. Both kinds of interactions can lead to organismality, so we study that too.

We study social amoebae, because this microbial system is amenable to a gene-level understanding. Gene knockouts, experimental evolution, genome sequencing, and social experiments are easy with this tiny social eukaryote. Dictyostelium discoideum is best known of the amoebozoa family Dictyostelidae, but other species provide fascinating comparisons.

We use behavioral, genetic, genomic, microbiological, cell biology, and field techniques. We have an outstanding group of highly motivated, brilliant students, and have room for more!

Check out Dr. Joan Strassmann’s Keynote Presentation from the 2014 NAKFI Conference on Collective Behavior.

*banner photo credit: Susanne DiSalvo (spores with endosymbiotic bacteria) & Tyler Larsen (Dicty close-up)