The broad goal of my research program is to inform our understanding of the evolution of human cooperation using primate behavioral ecology. Humans cooperate more often, in more contexts, and with more partners (including strangers) than any other vertebrate. Knowing how and why species similar to the last common ancestor of apes and humans cooperate helps to explain why human cooperation is so extreme. I use long-term data and field observations of wild chimpanzees to address questions in several areas, including cooperative hunting, territory defense, food sharing, coalitionary aggression and social bonds. I am particularly interested in how persistent individual differences in behavior affect collective action.
Together with Anne Pusey (Duke University), I am co-director of the Gombe chimpanzee database, which contains more than 53 years of detailed data on the daily lives of hundreds of chimpanzees living in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Together, the behavioral, genetic, spatial and hormonal information contained in this database are an unparalleled resource for understanding the behavior and evolution of one of our closest living relatives.