Inclusive fitness: theory and practice, Kavli Royal Society, Buckinghamshire, organized by Andy Gardner and Ashleigh Griffin

Chicheley Hall from the vegetable garden

Chicheley Hall from the vegetable garden

The first session has inclusive fitness luminaries Andy Gardner, Alan Grafen, David Queller, and Peter Taylor. We move on to Kevin Foster, Allen Moore, Hisashi Ohtsuki, and Geoff Wild.

Ashleigh Griffin, Peter Taylor, and Toby Kiers contemplating the name anagrams. We’re ants on man’s jars, and ladled quiver, fortunately avoiding foreskin vet, or the belch lawn.

The second day has Ashleigh Griffin, me, Koos Boomsma, Ben Hatchwell, then, in the afternoon, Sam Brown, Toby Kiers, Francisco Ubeda, and Thom Scott-Phillips. Please look them up, for they are too many to link to. Follow meeting tweets at #kinsel.

Alan Grafen in a pensive moment, with a major meeting theme.

We’re out in the countryside over an hour from Heathrow at Chicheley Hall. It is cool and cloudy. There are lichens on the gravestones in the churchyard, their circles likely wargrounds of microbial competition, growing too slowly for good experimental subjects.

Lichens, battling for space on a tombstone.

Another group played croquet on the lawn. The tomatoes in the vegetable garden are not yet ripe. The poppies and onions have gone to seed. Dinner was cold salads, fishes, mostly smoked, cheeses, good wine, even better conversation. This is a large part of the kin selection elite. I wish you were here. But there’s only 20 of us, so, if you do the arithmetic only 4 are not speaking.

I’m trying to decide what I think about these small, exclusive meetings. I go to more and more of them, the Biological Markets workshop (not so small), the Xenophobia workshop, the Animal Behavior workshop, and now this, if I’m not forgetting something. They are fun, but lack the element of meetings where you can see a glimmer in the eye of a new student, the start of a passion for this kind of science.

I suppose it is like everything else, a mix is good. Small meetings, large meetings, meetings just for students, meetings just for the silverbacks, young and old. I feel a responsibility to my community to learn a lot here, to understand better the role of theory in my research.

Sam Brown and Andy Gardner deep in conversation

I hope they allow tweeting and I’ll share what’s going on. For now I’ll learn and learn, and watch how the interactions go. So far it has been great fun. It should make me a better researcher and professor. After all, where else would I have learned of the ham sandwich theorem from Peter Taylor? And where else would the padded walls and curtains of the dining hall have had a flea motif, no doubt for Miriam Rothchild, that famous rich person and entomologist?

The curtain flea motif.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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4 Responses to Inclusive fitness: theory and practice, Kavli Royal Society, Buckinghamshire, organized by Andy Gardner and Ashleigh Griffin

  1. Jeremy Fox says:

    Wish I was there, if only so I could meet Alan Grafen a second time and not embarrass myself like the first time (

    In seriousness, that sounds like a fun meeting. As you say, variety is good. I don’t get that variety, I’m mostly only able to attend one meeting a year, and I need to make it the huge ESA meeting. The closest I’ve gotten to experiencing a very small, selective meeting was a working group I organized.

  2. Jeremy Fox says:

    Oops, should’ve linked to that post on my current blog, not my old one!

  3. I imagine we’ve all embarrassed ourselves one time or another with Alan’s unrelenting exactness. But I love his precision, even if there may be no hope for field measures!

  4. Amy Hurford says:

    My former supervisor! And reportedly still in good form. I don’t know the one about the Ham sandwich, but I do know the one about seats on the plane: if the first person on an airplane sits in the wrong seat, what is the probably that the last person boarding the plane sits in their correct seat…

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