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Research

My interest is in Darwin's theory of sexual selection--selection for traits enhancing mate competition. As an anthropologist, I study how it affects human morphology and behavior. To this end, the classic main goals of sexual selection research are mine:

1. Explaining the existence of secondary sexual traits. Secondary sexual traits develop at puberty, but don't directly function in reproduction--like men's deep voices, beards, and chest hair. What are they for? Darwin noticed they tended to fall into two categories: armaments (weaponry for aggressive contests) and ornaments (for attracting mates). Researchers have since identified a number of additional ways of competing over mates, including scramble competition, sperm competition and mate guarding, endurance rivalry, and coercion. The goal is to understand which of these mechanisms of sexual selection is responsible for a particular secondary sexual trait. That is, to understand how that trait affects mating competition. I have begun to examine the function of men's beards and robust facial morphology.

2. Identifying (and explaining) the forms and consequences of competition over mates. Here, the goal is to understand how and why people vary in the ways they compete over mates. My dissertation addresses a piece of this question--how imbalances in the adult sex ratio affect the intensity and kind of mate competition.