Current Research

The Buston Lab, together with an international network of collaborators, grapples with questions at the frontiers of behavioral ecology, population ecology, and evolutionary biology in the marine environment. To date, our research has focused on two major questions.

Behavioral Ecology — Social Evolution. First, why do some individuals forgo their own reproduction and behave cooperatively in animal societies? This question has challenged evolutionary biologists ever since Darwin pointed out the difficulties that these behaviors posed for his theory of natural selection. See our articles in Nature, Communications Biology and Proceedings of the Royal Society, or syntheses in American Scientist and Investigación y Ciencia to see how we have tackled this question using clown anemonefish. Students have built from here, investigating social evolution in emerald gobies, parental negotiations in clown anemonefish, and social networks in humbug damselfish. (More here)

Population Ecology — Population Connectivity. Second, what is the probability of larval exchange, or connectivity, between populations in marine metapopulations? This question has been a focus for marine ecologists, because the answer holds the key to understanding metapopulation dynamics and designing networks of marine reserves. See our articles in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Ecology to see how we have tackled this question using neon gobies.Students have built from here, investigating the role of larval behavior in determining connectivity and the role of connectivity in determining spatial genetic structure. (More here)

Our research combines long-term field studies with experimental manipulations, molecular genetics, and mathematical modeling. We use a hypothesis-driven approach to address fundamental questions at the interface of behavioral-, population-, and evolutionary biology in marine systems.

We welcome inquiries from undergraduate students, masters students, PhD students, and postdocs interested in joining us to pursue research in these areas.

Please explore the lab website and reach out to us if you have questions.

Selected Publications

  • Buston PM & Clutton-Brock, T. (2022). Strategic growth in social vertebrates. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 37: 694-705.
  • Majoris JE, Francisco F, Burns C, Brandl S, Warkentin K, Buston PM (2022) Paternal care regulates the timing, synchrony, and success of hatching in a coral reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 289: 20221466.
  • Branconi R, Barbasch T, Francis R, Srinivasan M, Jones G & Buston P (2020) Ecological and social constraints combine to promote the evolution of non-breeding strategies in clownfish. Nature, Communications Biology 3: 649.
  • Barbasch TA, Alonzo S, Buston PM (2020) Power and punishment influence negotiations over parental care. Behavioral Ecology 31: 911-921.
  • Rueger T, Barbasch T, Wong MYL, Srinivasan M, Jones GP, Buston PM (2018) Reproductive control via the threat of eviction in the clown anemonefish. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 285: 20181295.
  • D’Aloia CC, Bogdanowicz SM, Francis, RK, Majoris J, Harrison RG, Buston PM (2015) Patterns, causes and consequences of marine larval dispersal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112: 13940-13945.
  • Buston PM, Jones GP, Planes S, Thorrold SR (2012) Probability of successful larval dispersal declines fivefold over 1 km in a coral reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 279: 1883-1888.
  • Buston PM (2003) Size and growth modification in clownfish. Nature 424: 145-146.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 260 Marine Biology
  • BI 508 Behavioral Ecology
  • BI 509 Metapopulation Ecology
  • BI 511 The Ecology of Coral Reef Fishes
  • BI 519 Theoretical Evolutionary Ecology
  • BI 671 Survey of Ecology, Behavior, Evolution and Marine Biology

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