Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Strassmann, Joan E.
Location Washington University in St. Louis
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Genetics
 Election Citation
Strassmann has pioneered genetically based research on the evolution of conflict and cooperation in social organisms, including wasps, bees, and cellular slime molds. By using molecular techniques for phylogenetic reconstruction, determining genetic relatedness, and assessing reproductive fitness, she has led the field of social evolution into the genomic era.
 Research Interests
Cooperative alliances are a central feature of life, and include multicellular organisms, social insects, mutualisms, and many microbial systems. Using social insects and later social microbes, Strassmann and her long-time collaborator David Queller, have explored how these alliances come to be, what makes them stable, and how conflict is controlled. She pioneered the use of DNA microsatellite markers to get at the intricacies of within-colony genetic relatedness in social wasps and stingless bees and showed that kin selection offered explanations for where cooperation occurs and how conflict is controlled. She then moved on to study altruism in social amoebae and used single gene knockouts, experimental evolution, genomics, and staged interactions to get at the molecular underpinnings of cooperation and to show the importance of genetic relatedness in favoring altruism in this system. Most recently they have discovered symbioses between social amoebae and bacteria in an agricultural mutualism. She is beginning to apply these concepts and techniques to understanding the origins and maintenance of cooperative entities we call organisms and the very nature of organismality.

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