Co-Evolutionary Dynamics


Dynamics of the vaginal microbiome during puberty

Larry Forney Ph.D. and Roxana Hickey

The vaginal microbiome is integral to women’s health, and abundant lactobacilli are considered a hallmark of healthy conditions in reproductive-age women. Composition of the microbiome varies widely among and within individuals over time, but the factors underlying the establishment and stability of these communities are not well understood. This study uses metagenomics to assess longitudinal changes in vaginal microbiomes during puberty at the onset of menarche, when physiologic changes are likely to have profound effects on the microbiome. Our findings indicate the vaginal microbiome of most girls are dominated by lactobacilli early in puberty, typically before the onset of menarche, and are generally very similar to the types of communities observed in healthy adults. Moreover, many healthy girls harbor bacterial species that have previously been associated with bacterial vaginosis in adults. These findings improve our understanding of the normal development of the vaginal microbiome during puberty and will better inform clinical approaches to gynecologic care of adolescent girls.


Evolution of Complex Signals

James Foster Ph.D. and Bert Baumgaertner Ph.D.

Signaling is ubiquitous in nature, often spanning multiple levels of organization. In some cases we observe the emergence of complex signals - human languages are a paradigm example.  In this research we are looking at how complex signals could have evolved. Our approach makes use of signaling games in an agent-based modeling framework.  This research is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing from game theory, biology, philosophy, and computer science.


Hierarchical Social Structures In Swarms of Robots

Josh Rubini, Robert Heckendorn Ph.D. and Terence Soule Ph.D.

In order to coordinate swarms of robots to accomplish tasks with common goals, it is necessary for them to have a clear command and control (C&C). But what is the best way to organize this? Is it a single central leader? Is it fully distributed and egalitarian? Or is it some particular graph or lattice of C&C? In our research we are using the evolution to search for effective C&C architectures selected in evolutionary algorithms by fitness functions. We are particularly interested in what characteristics of a problem and its fitness function induce what architectures.