I’m a philosopher of science with a background in software engineering. I work at the University of Sydney, Australia, where I’m a Research Fellow on the project “The Causal Foundations of Biological Information” with Paul Griffiths, Karola Stotz, and Arnaud Pocheville. I’m currently visiting Auckland University in New Zealand, where I’m an honorary Research Fellow. Previously, I was an SFI/ASU post-doctoral fellow at Arizona State University with Manfred Laubichler, and a fellow in Joshua Epstein’s Center for Advanced Modeling at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. Before that, I worked with Kim Sterelny and Lindell Bromham at the Australian National University.
My research focuses on how we explain the evolution of complex life. By “complex”, I mean a cluster of features identified with macro-evolutionary change: new levels of individuality, coordinated social organisation, language, complex morphology, and the functional integration of organisms and their parts (whether, and why, these features deserve to be called complex is part of the inquiry). Any explanation for these will invoke natural selection, but a variety of other theoretical concepts often come into play—novelties, major transitions, evolvability, modularity, robustness, and biological information—to name a few. Clarifying these concepts and understanding the role they play in different kinds of evolutionary explanations forms the core of my research.
As well working on conceptual issues in biology, I also write phylogenetic software for evolutionary biologists in collaboration with Robert Lanfear. Our PartitionFinder software is used in a number of large phylogenetic projects, such as the 1Kite, which has constructed a phylogeny of insect orders using all expressed genes across more than 1,000 insect species.