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Personal profile

Research interests

Evolution of animal conflict and cooperation, focusing on the origin of altruism using fieldwork and theory.

My research website is here: www.patrickckennedy.com.
My aim is to use field experiments and theory to explore social evolution, focusing especially on the amazing "primitively eusocial" wasps of the world. I'm a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows, New York City, and a Marie Curie Global Fellow based in the US and UK (in Dustin Rubenstein's Lab at Columbia and Andy Radford's Lab at Bristol). Slightly surprisingly, I've been called a wasp-catching "slow-mo ninja" by National Geographic. For an overview of why I believe wasps are so fascinating, see this interview on the Simons Foundation website.

Endlessly fascinating Belonogaster wasps, Ghana (PK)

What links climate and cooperation?

Across social animals, links are emerging between climatic variation and the evolution of sociality. My research aims to contribute to this debate using experiments and theoretical modelling (e.g., theory for altruism in fluctuating environments). I am conducting field experiments with African wasps, with colleagues in Cameroon, South Africa, and Kenya.

What role do threats and coercion play in social evolution?

Can organisms use Machiavellian tactics to coerce others into cooperation? I have recently published on the evolution of 'blackmail' between family members, and I am developing experiments in the evolution of dominance hierarchies.

What explains paradoxical acts of cooperation?

Some social behaviours seem especially challenging to explain. I'm intrigued by these surprising acts of cooperation. My research includes using RFID radio-tags and longitudinal monitoring to solve the enigma of paper wasps helping neighbour colonies in Central America.

2021-now       Marie Curie Global Fellow, Columbia University (USA) & University of Bristol (UK)

2021-now       Junior Fellow of Simons Society of Fellows, Columbia University (USA)

2019-2020      Postdoc, Radford Lab, University of Bristol (UK)

2015-2019      PhD, University of Bristol (UK)

2014      Field assistant, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama

2010-2013      BA (Hons.) Biological Sciences, Brasenose College, University of Oxford (UK)

External positions

Junior Fellow (Columbia University), Simons Society of Fellows, New York City, Simons Foundation

1 Jan 202131 Dec 2023

Marie Curie Global Fellow, Columbia University


  • altruism
  • cooperation
  • social evolution
  • wasps
  • eusociality
  • conflict


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