Professor Starks is a behavioral ecologist who focuses primarily on the adaptive significance of social behavior. His approach to research is multi-faceted: He engages in studies that are observational, experimental, and theoretical. In order to answer his research questions, he uses both field and laboratory techniques. Combined, these methods have enabled him to examine the evolutionary significance of newly identified behaviors, as well as to test and advance evolutionary models of behavior.
Philip's primary areas of interest relate to the evolution of (1) eusociality, (2) complex cooperative and competitive interactions, (3) adaptive host responses to pathogens, and (4) recognition systems. Since selection may often favor high levels of plasticity in behaviors that increase survival and offspring production, an additional theme of his research is behavioral plasticity.
Starks' research is theory driven, and thus his lab has - and will continue to - study a wide range of organisms. Currently the focus is predominantly on paper wasps and honey bees.