I am intensely fascinated by biological and cultural evolution, the fundamental difference between the two, and the implications for the interaction of the two systems.  I study how ecological and biophysical factors exert selective forces on human institutions, and how the study of cultural evolution might aid in the search for sustainable (and durable) institutions.

PhD Research

    I am currently analyzing and writing my dissertation in Human Ecology at U.C. Davis.  My research  tests the influence of ethnic/caste diversity and hierarchy on a traditional cooperative irrigation system in southern India.  A sizable literature demonstrates that ethnic diversity negatively effects public goods provision in realms such as public schooling, policing, and environmental management.  This literature might overlook the importance of inter-ethnic relationships in determining cooperative regimes within societies.  I use a range of methods, from  traditional ethnography, to surveys, to quantitative experimental games to measure human behavior.

Recent Research

    I study the interaction between cultural processes and environmental conditions in Southern India. Because cooperation is a key component of sustainable resource management, I measured social norms of fairness and sharing in a small group of day laborers in Tamil Nadu to measure the strength of three social preferences: self-interest, equality, and social efficiency. The results suggest that people have preferences for how to distribute wealth that go beyond classical economic utility maximization, and include concern for how others are treated. Future research of this type will be used to measure cooperation between social groups as a component of successful sustainable environmental management. This work also will contribute empirical evidence to ongoing discussions about the nature of human social preferences.

Web Pages


Previous Research

Water use and water quality in Bardiya National Park - Nepal

Spatially explicit ecological simulation of the Everglades - SFWMD

Social learning and environmental fluctuation - UC Davis

Social norms of sharing in day laborer population - Kodaikanal, India