Cognition and Behaviour

Just like physical traits, psychological traits are shaped by natural selection.

Behaviour can be thought of as adaptations shaped by the forces of evolution. The application of evolutionary principles to the study of human behaviour is often called evolutionary psychology.

Current Projects

Evolution, Intelligence, and CreativityCrespi Lab
Do intelligence or creativity offer a selective advantage? The Crespi lab investigates this question, while looking at the relationship between these traits and the risk of autism and schizophrenia.

Disease Salience and Short-Term Mating,
Does our desire to avoid pathogens affect our choice of reproductive partners?  Research by Dr. Laura Dane focuses on the salience of disease risk to short-term mating interests, and investigates how these interests are moderated by narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism (the Dark Triad).

Evolution and Conservation

Given the limited resources for conservation, what species should we save?

We live in the midst of a mass extinction event, and the harsh reality is that not all species can be saved.  Researchers at the Crawford Lab use principles of evolutionary distinctiveness to prioritize species for conservation.

Current Projects

Zoos and Conservation, Mooers Lab
What is the role of zoological institutions in species conservation?  Do zoos around the world currently hold species that are at greatest risk of extinction?

Evolutionary Medicine

Human health is to adaptation as disease risk is to maladaptation.

Modern medicine aims to understand the physiological causes of human diseases and how to treat them; evolutionary medicine (also known as Darwinian medicine) aims to understand how evolution has shaped human health in ways that put us as risk of diseases. Ideas central to evolutionary medicine include trade-offs, genomic conflict, constraints, and environmental mismatch.

Researchers at the Crawford Lab use evolutionary approaches to further our understanding of the human immune system, maternal health, and psychiatric conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

Current Projects


iReceptor Project,  Breden Lab
iReceptor is a distributed data management system and scientific gateway for mining “Next Generation” sequence data from immune responses. The goal of the project is to: improve the design of vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and cancer immunotherapies by integrating Canadian and international data repositories of antibody and T-cell receptor gene sequences.

Stress and Reproduction, Nepomnaschy Lab
We aim develop a comprehensive model of the interactions between women’s stress and reproductive physiology in natural contexts (i.e. non-clinical) across reproductive transitions and to evaluate the effects of those interactions on women’s reproductive outcomes.

Human Evolution

“Human evolution, at first, seems extraordinary. How could the process that gave rise to slugs and oak trees and fish produce a creature that can fly to the moon and invent the Internet and cross the ocean in boats?
– Steven Pinker

How has evolution shaped humankind throughout time? Researchers at the Crawford Lab study diverse aspects of human evolution, including morphology, tool use, material culture, language, religion, and psychology.  One of our members was even part of the team that discovered Homo naledi!

Current Projects

Phylogeny of Ancient Hominids
Dr. Mark Collard, Dr. Arne Mooers, and Dr. Mana Dembo have played integral roles in developing a new evolutionary tree of ancient human ancestors, including the recently discovered Homo naledi.

Molecular Evolution

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”
 geneticist & evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky

To fully understand evolution, one must zoom in to the molecular level.  Researchers at the Crawford Lab examine how minute changes in the sequence of molecules like DNA, RNA, and proteins across countless generations ultimately give rise to the forces of evolution.

Current Projects

Evolution of Sperm-Egg InteractionsHart Lab


“The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree.I believe this simile largely speaks the truth.”
– Charles Darwin

Phlyogenetics is the study of evolutionary relationships between groups of living things.

Current Projects

Dr. Arne Mooers and Crawford Lab alumni are involved with the Bird Tree – a evolutionary tree the represents the diversity of bird species across space and time.