Areas of research interest in the Avilés lab include:
(1) The ecology and biogeography of social evolution
(2) Sociality and community assembly
(3) Evolution of life histories in metapopulations
(4) The short and long term consequences of inbreeding.
The history of life has been marked by transitions involving the association of lower level units into higher levels of organization—genes into chromosomes, cells into multicellular organisms, and individuals into social groups. With an emphasis on the transition between individuals and social groups, research in the lab seeks to address the causes and consequences of these evolutionary transitions. We use a variety of research tools, including fieldwork in temperate and tropical areas, computer simulation, GIS and analytical modelling, and laboratory work employing behavioural and molecular techniques. Central to our empirical studies and a source of inspiration for our theoretical work are the social spiders, a phylogenetically diverse set of species that have converged in evolving cooperative behaviour and highly subdivided population structures. Because colonies of these organisms constitute not only social groups, but also self-sustaining populations, social spiders are ideally suited to address some fundamental and often controversial issues at the intersection of ecology and evolution. These include the evolution of sex ratios in subdivided populations, the role of multilevel selection in evolution, short and long term consequences of inbreeding, cooperation and population dynamics, the ecology of social evolution, and, more recently, sociality and community assembly. In addressing the biogeography of spider social systems (also, more recently, maternal care in treehoppers and their mutualistic association with ants), we have also explored patterns of insect size distribution, predation rate, parasitism, and other macroecological patterns along temperature and precipitation gradients.
Biodiversity Research Centre 290
Department of Zoology
University of British Columbia
6270 University Blvd.
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
P.I. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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