Talia Borofsky is a mathematical biologist interested in the evolution of social behavior. Her doctoral research in the Department of Biology at Stanford University dealt with social learning—when animals adopt a behavior by watching others—which is the fundamental ingredient for cultural evolution. She used mathematical models to study how predators that learn socially affect the species they prey on differently than do predators who learn how to hunt individually; and how prey availability can feed back onto the evolution of social learning. Her models have demonstrated that social learning may cause competition between animals for food, which can destabilize prey populations.
Dr. Borofsky conducts her postdoctoral research jointly between the Department of Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. She uses analytical and network-based models to investigate two types of cooperation in animals: cooperative hunting, where predators hunt in a group, and fecundity altruism, where individuals in a group allocate the ability to reproduce to a randomly chosen primary reproducer. She aims to study how (1) cooperative behaviors create niches in which other types of cooperative behaviors can evolve, and (2) how the evolution of these cooperative behaviors influence the local ecosystem. By answering questions about how animals form groups and which ecological forces determine group structure, her models could guide conservation and wildlife reintroduction efforts that involve cooperative animal species.
With her postdoc, Dr. Borofsky returns to Israel after spending an exchange semester at Ben-Gurion University and later working as a visiting researcher in the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University.