Judith Bronstein, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Arizona, Tucson
Born in 1957 in Delaware, USA
Studied Independent Studies in Environmental Science at Brown University and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan
Syngenomics: Evolution - from Conflict to Cooperation to Mutualism
Does Crime Pay? The Benefits of Cheating, the Costs of Being Cheated, and the Persistence of Interspecific CooperationHow can cooperation persist in the face of a persistent, ubiquitous temptation to cheat? While at the Wissenschaftskolleg, I intend to critically examine evidence for our current interpretation of the conflicts that underlie interspecific cooperation (mutualism). Taking a broad conceptual perspective developed over thirty years of studying the ecology and evolution of mutualism, I will synthesize, for the first time, widely dispersed empirical evidence surrounding three critical issues. (1) Do individuals with options to either cheat or cooperate choose to cheat when they can? (2) Does "crime pay" - that is, does cheating confer fitness benefits to individuals that could alternatively cooperate? (3) Is it indeed costly to be cheated by ones partner? Current cooperation theory is built on the belief that the answer to all three questions is yes. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this assumption is fundamentally flawed. My research program intersects with the broader goals of Michael Wade's Focus Group about Syngenomics: to create new evolutionary theory designed to advance our understanding of how cooperation can persist in the face of conflict. This is one of the central mysteries in biology today. It is one whose solution holds the promise of helping us to envision and perhaps even design more smoothly functioning human societies.
Barker, J. L., J. L. Bronstein, M. L. Friesen, E. I. Jones, H. K. Reeve, A. G. Zink, and M. E. Frederickson (2017). "Synthesizing perspectives on the evolution of cooperation within and between species." Evolution 71: 814-825.
Díaz-Muñoz, S., A. Boddy, G. Dantas, C. Waters, and J. L. Bronstein (2016). "Contextual organismality: Beyond pattern to process in the emergence of organisms." Evolution 70: 2669-2677.
Jones, E. I., M. E. Afkhami, E. Akcay, J. L. Bronstein, R. Bshary, M. E. Frederickson, K. D. Heath, J. Hoeksema, J. H. Ness, S. Pankey, S. S. Porter, J. L. Sachs, K. Scharnagl, and M. L. Friesen (2015). "Cheaters must prosper: reconciling theoretical and empirical perspectives on cheating in mutualism." Ecology Letters 18: 1270-1284.
Tuesday Colloquium, 18.03.2019
Mutualism: What Do We Know, and Where Do We Go From Here?
In this talk, I review the history of the study of mutualism, a field that has only coalesced in the past twenty years. I will identify six major research directions on mutualism ecology. I will then present our own recent work on one hawkmoth pollination mutualism to show how these directions can be integrated to move our understanding forward. This is a particularly intriguing mutualism because it appears to be exceedingly costly (the offspring of the pollinator moths are voracious herbivores on the same plants), making it an ideal test case for testing our understanding of how mutualisms arise and when they can persist. I conclude by discussing a few pressing issues surrounding mutualism that are likely to drive the field in the coming years.