Curriculum Vitae Biosketch

  • Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department


Research Summary

Our long, successful, and continuing story of migration across the globe attests to the extraordinary adaptability of humans. Part of our success likely lies in adaptive learning strategies. Through mathematical modeling, ethnographic fieldwork, and experiments, I test whether evolutionary theory can explain the cultural variation I see among Tongan migrants in Utah, the Western U.S., and other parts of the world.

Research Statement

The spread of the human species is largely due to the development of complex culture early in our evolutionary history. Culture, like genes, is inherited, exhibits variation, and can be favored by natural selection and influenced by other evolutionary forces. Unlike genes the transmission of culture can come from many individuals and occurs magnitudes faster. To fully understand human evolution and behavior, culture alongside genes must be a part of the same formula. My mathematical modeling, ethnographic fieldwork, empirical studies, and experiments are motivated by cultural evolutionary theory to answer two major questions:

  1. Can evolutionary favored social learning strategies explain the cultural variation we see among today’s immigrant communities?
  2. Can we explain the degree of cultural complexity using demographic variables, such as group size and migration patterns?

Research Keywords

  • informal education, Interest Level: 1
  • cultural evolution, Interest Level: 1
  • Tonga, Interest Level: 1
  • Migration, Interest Level: 1
  • Learning Outcomes, Interest Level: 1