Peter Nonacs, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Tools and Techniques: (1) Field work: natural colonies of ants and wasps; (2) Experimental: Lab colonies of ants, climate control room; (3) Theoretical: Mathematical modeling involving techniques of computer simulations and stochastic dynamic programming.
Interests: evolution of cooperation and conflict, life history, optimal tradeoffs, antipredator behavior, social learning, host-disease coevolution, social insects.
My overall research program is at the intersection of Evolutionary and Behavioral Ecology. I explore both evolutionary why questions and behavioral how questions. My students and I use a wide range of methods, which range from the development of theory through mathematical modeling, to controlled experiments in the lab and semi-natural field situations, to field work at various sites in California. This has made the overall research program of my lab unique within Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology by the range of issues we address. I have five current areas of ongoing research in the topics of: (1) Reproductive skew theory; (2) Parental investment strategies; (3) Biocontrol of invasive pest ants; (4) The maintenance and evolutionary consequences of genetic diversity; and (5) General questions of social evolution, ranging from HIV evolution within hosts, reproductive conflicts in social insect colonies, to behavioral diversity in humans. Although most of my work and that of my students is with social Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), we are open to working on any model system or species depending on how well suited they are to answering exciting evolutionary questions.