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Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology+44 (0) 191 33 41630
DRMC Co-Director (Research & Professional Development) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health 
Co-Director (Research & Professional Development) in the Durham Research Methods Centre
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study
Fellow of the Institute for Medical Humanities


After completing my undergraduate (BSc, Hons) in Biology at the University of Nottingham and then a masters (MSc) in Biological Computation at the University of York, I carried out my PhD at the Sub-Dept. of Animal Behaviour (Madingley), within the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, supervised by Kevin Lala (formally Laland). This work focused on the adaptive value of social learning, including experiments studying social learning in guppy fish and mathematical modelling exploring the circumstances under which social learning can evolve. I then worked as a post-doc with Marc Feldman at Stanford University, developing mathematical models of cultural evolution in humans, in particular exploring fertility transition patterns within and across populations and a separate project modelling the evolution of costly normative practices. This was followed by a post-doc position with Kevin Lala in St. Andrews running experiments to examine social learning in stickleback fish. In 2007, I moved to Durham to take up a Research Fellowship (RCUK) in the Department of Anthropology which transitioned to a lectureship. And Durham's such a lovely place I've been here ever since!

Research Interests

I'm interested in how properties of human learning and human-environment interactions shape patterns of cultural variation. I use a wide variety of approaches from mathematical modelling and experiments, to interviews and focus group work. Most of the research involves cross-disciplinary collaboration. I'm currently developing research projects on evolving knowledge systems and on disease emergence. Here is a selection of recent and ongoing projects:

  • adaptive properties of social learning
  • coevolution of AI and human behaviour - implications for human knowledge and inequality
  • conformist biased transmission dynamics
  • cultural practices affecting disease emergence
  • cultural evolution of knots - focusing on copying errors and the topology of knot space
  • evolution of folktales and folkmusic
  • evolution of graphical representations
  • evolutionary properties of digital technologies
  • how the media and design features of material culture affect their evolvability - case study examining knots
  • prestige effects on patterns of social transmission in hierarchical institutions
  • social influences on cooperative behaviour
  • tacit knowledge in academia
  • wayfinding and navigating space - cultural constructs and properties of distributed knowledge

I'd love to run a PhD project on the cultural evolution of climbing grade systems, so please get in touch if this interests you!


I teach undergraduate modules concerning evolutionary explanations of human behaviour, scientific methods and statistics. 

I'm very excited to be delivering a new third-year module in 2024-25 called Evolving Knowledge Systems. This will take in a range of perspectives from indigenous knowledge to distributed cognition to AI algorithms. 

At Masters level, I run a practical module on running simulations in R that can be incorporated into empirical research projects.

Research interests

  • Social transmission and population dynamics


Chapter in book

Journal Article


Working Paper

Supervision students