We study the causes and consequences of collective behaviour in social vertebrates. In particular, we investigate how information enables animals to deal with uncertainty, how this shapes the way that animals interact with each other and their environment, and ultimately how this drives the evolution of collective behaviour. Our research combines experimental studies of animals in both the wild and the lab to address questions at three levels: 1) how social and ecological conditions mediate collective behaviour and social network structure, 2) identifying the costs and adaptive benefits of collective action and decision-making, and 3) quantifying the evolutionary feedback between behavioural rules or strategies and multi-level selection.
Recent advances in the study of social ecology have been helped by novel technologies that provide rich and high-resolution group-level data. As well as tracking animals, we use technologies to manipulate the interactions that animals have with the environment and with one another, allowing us to manipulate social dynamics. Such active manipulations form the basis of our approach in both wild and lab experiments. We follow these methods in a range of systems, with focus mostly on birds, but also baboons and other species through a range of collaborators.
Group leader: Damien Farine