Faculty Directory

Barry Sinervo
  • Title
    • Full Professor
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences
  • Department
    • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department
  • Affiliations Computer Science and Engineering Department
  • Phone
    831-459-4022, 831-459-3425
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • CSC Coastal Biology Building, 270
    • Lizardland
  • Office Hours M W 10-11 am
  • Mail Stop CBB/EE Biology
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Climate Change, Game Theory, Behavioral Ecology, Endangered Species, Big Data, Bioinformatics, Cognition, Evolution, Conservation, Digital Arts
  • Courses Taught Behavioral Ecology, Bio 141; Herpetology, Bio 114/L; Game Theory, Bio 272,; Behavioral Ecology, Bio 140; Behavioral Ecology Field Course, Bio 141L

Summary of Expertise

Game Theory, Behavioral Ecology, Mating Systems, Behavioral Genetics, Climate Change Impacts on Organisms

Research Interests

Behavioral Ecology, Natural and Sexual Selection on Reproduction, Behavior, Reptilian Communities, Speciation

Barry Sinervo, Full Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz, is an evolutionary biologist who conducts research on Behavioral Ecology, Game Theory and the Biotic Impacts of Climate Change. He received his HBSc from Dalhousie University with a double major in Mathematics and Biology, PhD from the Zoology Department, University of Washington, and was a Miller Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Early in his career he discovered the first biological example of the rock-paper-scissors game, played out in nature by the side-blotched lizard. He is co-author with Dan Friedman of a book (Feb., 2016) entitled: “Evolutionary Games in Natural, Social and Virtual Worlds”. He is currently researching contemporary extinctions of reptiles and amphibians and changes in plant communities driven by climate change, at sites distributed on five continents, leading a multinational research team of scientists developing physiological models of the biotic impacts of climate change on diverse biological systems, and measuring the biotic impacts of climate from equatorial sites to polar regions.  He gives workshops on climate change science at institutions around the world.  He is also Director of the UC-wide Institute for the Study of the Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts, a research consortium funded by a UC Presidential Research Catalyst Award, studying biotic impacts of climate change across the UC Natural Reserve System of California. 

Our research is focused on behavioral and physiological ecology. For example, we have described a biological example of a cyclical "rock-paper-scissors" game that is being "played" out among three color morphs of male side-blotched lizards in the Coast Range of California. As in the "rock-paper-scissors" game where paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper, and rock beats scissors; the wide-ranging, "ultra-dominant" strategy of orange males is defeated by the "sneaker" strategy of yellow males which is in turn defeated by the mate-guarding strategy of blue males which is in turn defeated by the orange strategy to complete the cycle. We are currently using DNA paternity analysis to measure success of each color morph under different morph frequencies. The game leads to interesting aspects of cooperation in the blue strategy. We are focusing on the evolution of cooperation, and how this might drive the speciation process.

Questions relating to the physiological ecology of females are addressed by assessing the trade-off between offspring quality and quantity. I have developed two complementary manipulations, egg miniaturization and gigantization, that allow me to experimentally address the physiological bases of egg and clutch size variation as well as its fitness consequences. Current research addresses effects of egg size on dispersal, territory establishment and reproductive success in male and female offspring. Because egg and clutch size also affect the future reproductive success of the female parent, we can also experimentally manipulate such "costs of reproduction" by altering clutch size in the female parent.

Although much of my work focuses on the microevolutionary changes in behavior and physiology of lizards, I am also interested in the evolution of development in marine and freshwater organisms with larval stages (e.g., sea urchins and amphibians). I am also interested in other macroevolutionary problems of evolutionary biology that involve speciation. Our recent work is related to socially mediated speciation rather than ecologtically mediated speciation, which is typically considered in speciation studies.

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D., University of Washington, 1988
Postdoctorals: Miller Research Fellow University of California, Berkeley

Research Associate, University of Washington

Honors, Awards and Grants

2018                Visiting Professor, University of Pau, France 

2018                Visiting Professor, University of Toulouse, France

2016                International Collaboration Award, Chinese Herpetological Society

2015-2019       Presidential Research Catalyst Award to build an UC-wide Climate Change Institute

2013-2017       Special Visiting Professor, CNPq, University of Brasilia, Brazil (hosted by G. Colli)

2013                Awarded Best Paper in Copeia, (co-recipients with A. Corl & L. Lancaster)

2012                The Patagonian lizard Phymaturus sinervoi, a newly described species, was named in my honor

2010                Professor of Toulouse, UniversitéPaul Sabatier - Toulouse III (3 months summer)

2008                Research Scientist, CNRS (Centre Nationale pour les Recherche Scientifique) Moulis (4 months)

2007                Professor of Toulouse, UniversitéPaul Sabatier - Toulouse III (3 months summer)

2004                Visiting Professor, Natural History Museum, Paris (3 months summer)

2004                Awarded Best Paper in The American Naturalist, (co-recipients with R.B. Huey & P.E. Hertz).

2003                Visiting Professor, Paris University (2 months summer)

2001                CNRS Summer Professorship, CNRS, Paris (3 months summer)

2000                Elected Member, California Academy of Sciences

1992                Dobzhansky Prize, Society for the Study of Evolution

1989                American Society of Naturalist Young Investigator Prize

1988-1990       Miller Research Fellow, Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, UC Berkeley.

1982-1986       1967 Science Scholar, Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

1982                Commonwealth Scholarship to study in Essex with Brian Charlesworth and John Maynard Smith, which I declined

                        Annual Fund Fellowship, University of Washington

                        University Medal in Biology, Dalhousie University

                        Graduated with First Class Honours, HBSc. in Combined Biology and Mathematics Degree, Dalhousie University

1981                G.S. Burke Scholarship in Biology, Dalhousie University

1980-1982       Undergraduate Research Awards (3 awards), NSERC

1978-1981       Scholarships in Biology (4 scholarships awarded), Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

1978                Ontario Scholar, Ontario

1978                Gold Medal Winner, Port Arthur Collegiate Institute