Joan E. Roughgarden

Ph.D. Biology, Harvard University 1971

Department of Biological Sciences

Stanford University

"Transformations in evolutionary theory"


Roughgarden is an evolutionary ecologist whose work over the last 30 years on evolutionary adaptations to changing environments and community ecology theory has been at the forefront of the field. She uses mathematical and computational techniques as well as field studies of Caribbean Anolis lizards and barnacles to address issues ranging from the evolution of sex to territorial negotiation to ecosystem reserve design. After building a successful career as Jonathan, Roughgarden decided in 1998 to transition into a transgendered woman. Since then, she has become increasingly interested in biological diversity in gender and sexuality, and has recently written a book on the subject entitled Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People. In the book she puts forth the controversial proposal that Darwin's theory of sexual selection is hopelessly outdated and can only offer insight into a few unrepresentative cases. Instead, she argues that it should be replaced by a theory of "social selection", in which gender roles and sexuality can be seen as adaptations which facilitate cooperation in complex societies.

Selected Publications

Roughgarden, J. 1975. Simple model for population-dynamics in stochastic environments. American Naturalist 109(970): 713-736.

Roughgarden, J. 1983. Competition and theory in community ecology. American Naturalist 122(5): 583-601.

Roughgarden, J, S. Gaines, and H. Possingham. 1988. Recruitment dynamics in complex life cycles. Science 241(4872): 1460-1466.

Roughgarden, J. 1991. The evolution of sex. American Naturalist 138(4): 934-953.

Armsworth, P. R. and J. Roughgarden. 2003. The economic value of ecological stability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 100(12): 7147-7151.

Roughgarden, J. 2004. The in-crowd. New Scientist 181(1430): 36-39.


Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People (book website)

Rethinking sex (book review from American Scientist)

A plea for diversity (news feature from Nature, pdf format)

50-minute interview (with Nancy Nangeroni and Gordene MacKenzie, GenderTalk WebRadio January 22, 2001)