Rubenstein Lab

integrative organismal biology in a changing world

Twitter @DustRubenstein


integrating animal behavior  

 through studies that combine ecology and evolution with those of underlying molecular and neuroendocrine mechanisms

spanning molecules to populations

from invertebrates to vertebrates & across levels of analysis, scales of biological organization and the globe

past systems

current systems

World Map

house sparrows

burying beetle



burying beetles






marine iguana


snapping shrimps

Egernia lizards

marine igaunas



social evolution

causes and consequences of sociality

environmental uncertainty and animal societies. Work in cooperatively breeding starlings, weavers, wasps and burying beetles examines how unpredictable climate variation influences social evolution. 

evolutionary transitions in social organization.  We are examining the evolution of social diversity in snapping shrimps, gobies, and birds by quantifying life history variation and exploring the key evolutionary transitions among social states. 

genetic and neural mechanisms of social behavior.  We are studying the mechanistic bases of caste differentiation, social phenotypes, and social decision making in snapping shrimps, burying beetles, and Egernia lizards by examining role- and population-specific patterns of gene expression, signatures of genetic and epigenetic variation, structural variants, and brain architecture. 

phenotypic consequences of social living.  We are studying how inter- and intra-sexual competition influence the evolution of social signaling (song and plumage) and patterns of sexual dimorphism in starlings and hummingbirds.

genotypic consequences of social living.  We are examining how social living influences the evolution of genome structure by studying the relationships among social organization, genome size, and transposable element accumulation in snapping shrimps using population genetic and historical demographic approaches. 

cooperation and ecological dominance.  We are exploring how cooperative behavior in birds, burying beetles, and snapping shrimps influences competitive ability against conspecifics, niche breadth and range expansion, ecological generalism vs. specialism, and ecological dominance.

environmental coping

behavioral, physiological and molecular adaptations to global change

adaptation along environmental gradients.  We are examining stress physiology, immune function, color evolution, and patterns of genetic and epigenetic variation in different populations of starlings along temperature and precipitation gradients in the tropics. 

a framework for environmental coping.  Using game theory and comparative analyses we are exploring the evolution of strategies to cope with environmental uncertainty.  We are also developing a theoretical framework that predicts evolutionary responses to environmentally-driven fluctuating selection, and using it to explore the evolution of physiological coping mechanisms, as well as their genetic and epigenetic architectures.

epigenetics, plasticity and environmental variation.  We are examining how developmental conditions (both social and environmental) influence social phenotypes, stress physiology, and fitness later in life, and we are exploring DNA methylation as one potential mechanism underlying this relationship in starlings. Although we emphasize the stress axis, we also look globally at patterns of DNA methylation across the genome.

Columbia University

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology

10th Floor Schermerhorn Extension, MC5557

1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027

Office: 90 Morningside Drive, Basement #3  |  Lab: 851-854 Schermerhorn Extension

Tel: 212-854-4881  |  Lab Tel: 212-854-5330  |  Email: dr2497[at]columbia.edu  |  Twitter: @DustRubenstein


© 2002-2021  |  Dustin R. Rubenstein  |  Columbia University in the City of New York