Postal address:  
Institute of Environmental Physics, INF 229
University of Heidelberg
D-69120 Heidelberg
Visit: Im Neuenheimer Feld 229
Room Number: 202
Voice: (+49) 6221 54-6379

Current Project (Ph.D. Thesis)

Evolutionary systems are characterized by three key processes: variation, selection, and heritability. In the presents of these processes, an evolutionary unfolding can be expected that creates a richness of emerging new properties, entities, and in general complexity.

Cooperation is a ubiquitous phenomenon in evolutionary systems; Genes form genomes, cells form multicellular organisms, and individuals form societies. Thus, it is crucial to understand how cooperation can emerge, how it evolves and how it can, in the end, lead to major evolutionary transitions – transitions, which introduces a qualitatively new level of complexity.

In my PhD thesis I want to address the question how the transition from one level of complexity to a new, higher level of complexity can occur through cooperation. To put it in other words: What requirements are needed such that evolutionary subunits cooperate to finally build a new self-replicating entity, in which each individual subunit is vitally dependent on the others. To tackle this question, I will conceptually generalize and expand the ideas of the Hierarnet model, I designed during my master project.

Former Project (Master Thesis)

Cooperation is ubiquitous in nature. Its emergence can be a result of evolutionary processes through which single entities agglomerate to form hierarchically higher units. Examples of these transitions are genes that form genomes, single cells cooperating to form organisms, or individuals creating societies. Evolutionary game theory (EGT) has elucidated mechanisms that promote the evolution of cooperative behavior. However, most models presume discrete sets of agents’ strategies and do not account for the emergence of these strategies in the first place.

In my thesis, I present the Hierarnet model that describes social interactions in structured populations based on a continuous and unrestricted cost strategy space. The interactions are based on an extended and generalized continuous public goods game and different population structures are provided by the underlying network topology. An evolutionary process introduces small random mutations in the agents’ contributions, thereby providing a natural way of modeling variation. Agents are selected for reproduction according to their success in the interactions. Among other phenomena, a dilemma regime in which agents have a disadvantage by cooperating with others is observed.

Simulation of the Hierarnet model shows that cooperative behavior can emerge and thrive in structured population although agents can harm themselves by contributing more than others.