Rubenstein Lab

integrative organismal biology in a changing world

Twitter @DustRubenstein


past systems

current systems

World Map

house sparrows 

burying beetle


burying beetles






marine iguana



snapping shrimp

Egernia lizards

marine igaunas



mole rats

social evolution

causes and consequences of sociality

environmental uncertainty 

and social evolution

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

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.

molecular 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.

consequences of social living

We are studying how competition influence the evolution of social signaling and patterns of sexual dimorphism in starlings and hummingbirds. We are also examining how social living influences the evolution of genome architecture by studying the relationships among social organization, genome size, and transposable element accumulation in snapping shrimps and mole rats.

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 populations of starlings along temperature and precipitation gradients in the tropics.  We are also studying the environmental and genomic mechanisms that underlie local adaptation in burying beetle populations along altitudinal gradients.

epigenetics and adaptive plasticity

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.

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 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.

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