Marine Evolutionary Ecology

Photo Credit: Shane Paterson

Welcome to the new Buston Lab website, celebrating ten years at Boston University!

The Buston Lab, together with an international network of collaborators, grapples with questions at the frontiers of behavioral ecology, population ecology, and evolutionary biology in the marine environment. To date, our research has focused on two major questions.

Behavioral Ecology — Social Evolution. First, why do some individuals forgo their own reproduction and behave cooperatively in animal societies? This question has challenged evolutionary biologists ever since Darwin pointed out the difficulties that these behaviors posed for his theory of natural selection. See our articles in Nature and Proceedings of the Royal Society, or syntheses in American Scientist and Investigación y Ciencia to see how we tackled this question using clown anemonefish. Students have built from here, investigating social evolution in emerald gobies, parental negotiations in clown anemonefish, and social networks in humbug damselfish. (More here).

Population Ecology — Population Connectivity. Second, what is the probability of larval exchange, or connectivity, between populations in marine metapopulations? This question has been a focus for marine ecologists, because the answer holds the key to understanding metapopulation dynamics and designing networks of marine reserves. See our articles in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Marine Ecology Progress Series to see how we tackled this question using neon gobies. Students have built from here, investigating the role of larval behavior in determining connectivity and the role of connectivity in determining spatial genetic structure. (More here)

Our research combines long-term field studies with experimental manipulations, molecular genetics, and mathematical modeling. We use a hypothesis-driven approach to address fundamental questions at the interface of behavioral-, population-, and evolutionary biology in marine systems.

We welcome inquiries from undergraduate students, masters students, PhD students, and postdocs interested in joining us to pursue research in these areas.

Please explore the lab website and reach out to us if you have questions.

Pete Buston

Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Marine Ecology
Director of the Boston University Marine Program
Department of Biology & Marine Program
Boston University
5 Cummington Mall
Boston, MA 02215

Tel: 617-358-5412
E-mail: buston (at)
Twitter: @BustonLab