Carlos Botero

Carlos Botero

​Associate Professor of Biology
PhD, Cornell University
research interests:
  • Eco-evolutionary Dynamics of Extreme Environments
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Experimental Evolution

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1137
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Carlos Botero's laboratory uses a variety of tools from ecology and evolutionary biology to explore how life, from bacteria to humans, copes with and adapts to repeated environmental change.

Using theoretical models, large-scale comparative analyses, and experiments in the lab and the field, the Botero lab seeks to uncover how the evolutionary process changes under fluctuating selection and increased environmental unpredictability. The lab's goals are to discover general principles in biology and to shed some light into the mechanisms that drive them.

Three areas of current interest in the Botero lab are:

Eco-evolutionary dynamics of extreme environments
Environmental stochasticity and frequent exposure to environmental extremes promote the evolution of a variety of adaptations (including bet hedging and enhanced cognition). We are actively investigating the feedback loops between ecological parameters and evolutionary responses to extreme environments in wild bird populations.

Cultural evolution
Human groups have developed over time a variety of beliefs, social norms, subsistence strategies and ways to interact with the natural world. Such remarkable cultural diversity has often resulted from the gradual accumulation of changes in behavior and beliefs that sometimes (but not always) parallels the process of genetic evolution. We are part of an exciting multinational collaborative effort that is developing the tools of ecology and evolutionary biology to better fit the study of cultural diversity and cultural evolution.

Experimental evolution
Theoretical principles drive the research at the Botero Laboratory and new lines of work are often started in our group by formalizing ideas with the help of evolutionary models. At Wash U, our lab is taking our experimental evolution work from strictly in silico (i.e., individual-based simulation modeling) to in vivo using evolving populations of yeasts. This exciting new component of our lab is allowing us to test classic hypotheses in ecology and evolution and is already informing our efforts in developing new theory.

recent courses

Laboratory on the Evolution of Animal Behavior (Writing Intensive)

This course explores the costs, benefits and constraints that drive the evolution of animal behavior. It is divided into four modules that cover a range of common empirical and numerical tools in modern evolutionary biology (no prior experience in any of the following topics is necessary). MODULES: (1) a brief overview of basic statistics and a tutorial in R; (2) an experimental lab on agonistic behavior in crickets; (3) a computer simulation lab on the evolution of animal communication; and (4) a phylogenetic comparative analysis lab exploring the topic of sexual selection. Laboratory modules are hands-on and student driven. They begin with an overview of relevant literature and a discussion of key questions that have been addressed experimentally in that field. Students are then encouraged (and guided) to apply these concepts into the design, execution, and analysis of individual and/or collaborative research projects. In the process, they learn how to apply some of the latest numerical and/or empirical research tools in evolutionary biology. A majority of class time is devoted to active learning through the collection and analysis of data (each lab module lasts 4 weeks). The course also includes weekly presentations by the instructor and class discussions on topics that help place the students' work into the broader context of evolutionary theory.

    Seminars in Ecology and Evolution

    What: At least once a week there are seminars from researchers in ecology or evolution. These seminars are given by local people and by visitors. This semester there are also a number of presentations by job candidates. The point of these seminars is to learn about exciting research. What questions are they asking? What are they discovering? What new scientific stories can we hear about ecology or evolution? What makes up these fields anyway? The seminars are often followed by receptions which are a chance to get to know each other better and to ask questions. This course invites undergraduates to listen to these presentations and write about them. After all, this is a major part of the ideas climate at Wash U. It would be a great idea to get in the habit of going to seminars, with this course, or without. In addition to attending seminars, we will meet three times during the semester, early on and a couple of times later. When: Most seminars are 4:00 on Thursdays, though some are on other days. The three meetings will be arranged at a time that works for the students in the course.