Iain Couzin is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Department of Collective Behaviour and the Chair of Biodiversity and Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, Germany and Previously he was a Full Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and prior to that a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, and a Junior Research Fellow in the Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. His work aims to reveal the fundamental principles that underlie evolved collective behavior, and consequently his research includes the study of a wide range of biological systems, from insect swarms to fish schools and primate groups. In recognition of his research he has been recipient of the Searle Scholar Award in 2008, top 5 most cited papers of the decade in animal behavior research 1999-2010, the Mohammed Dahleh Award in 2009, Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” Award in 2010, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award in 2012 and the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2013.
Renaud is a theoretical biologist interested in the relation between perception and movements. By coupling experimental and theoretical approaches, he has previously studied plants development. He started recently to get some interest in collective movements. On this line, he is trying to see how Virtual Reality can help to modify perception in order to generate and study emergent collective behavior. Website:unred.org
Blair is a behavioral ecologist who studies free-ranging antelope in Kenya. Her postdoctoral research focuses on collective predator detection and information transfer in ungulate groups. For this project, she is collaborating with other lab members to develop advanced imaging technologies for use in field studies. Blair earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2014. There she developed a passion for fieldwork while studying the maternal and antipredator behavior of Thomson’s gazelle, a small East African antelope. After completing her Ph.D., she served as a research associate and lecturer for undergraduate courses in Princeton’s EEB department before moving to Germany to join the Couzin lab. She is currently leading the HerdHover project
personal website: blaircostelloe.com
Animals are great problem solvers. Networks of brain cells sort and process lots of noisy information to guide our behaviour. Groups of animals can work together to solve even more complex problems. But how do we do it? I make precise manipulations and careful measurements of animal behaviour to try to answer this question. You can find out more on my personal blog: www.danbath.ca
I’m a biologist from Switzerland, and I work on coral reef fish behaviour. I completed my PhD at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) on the behaviour of the bluestreak cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus with Prof. Redouan Bshary. I am now at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz (Germany) doing a project on the collective behaviour of damselfish with Prof. Iain Couzin & Dr. Alex Jordan.
Jens is a bioacoustician and focuses on echolocation of whales and bats. His research interests combines the areas of sensory ecophysiology, behavioral ecology, and applied ecology. He uses bioacoustics and acoustic monitoring as tools to investigate species specific adaptations to environmental conditions, behavioral interactions on an inter- and intra-species level and ecological forces, especially anthropogenic impacts, acting on population levels. More information at: www.jenskoblitz.org
Jolle Jolles is a Dutch Behavioural Ecologist who is fascinated by how animals live in groups. His research focuses on the role of consistent individual behavioural differences (animal personalities) in collective behaviour. Jolle recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge with Dr. Andrea Manica where he studied the interplay between personality differences and the social context in Three-spined sticklebacks. In March Jolle joined the Couzin lab at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz. He uses state-of the art individual-based tracking techniques to study how individual differences affect the collective movements, decision-making and group performance of large, dynamic schools of fish, both in the lab and under semi-wild conditions. Read more at jollejolles.com.
When asked what I do for a living, my usual answer is “I clean up jellyfish poop,” which is partially true. But that’s really just a means to a more interesting end: studying (marine) organisms, their behavior, and their interactions with the physical environment.
For the past few years, I have studied the fluid dynamics of pulsing behavior in xeniid corals. These soft corals generate fluid flows that influence local nutrient and gas exchange. For my current research project, I try to figure out whether there is a pattern to the collective pulsing behavior, what influences this behavior, and how differences in the collective pulsing (for example different timings or pulse frequencies) affect local flow fields.
My background is in biology, with a tendency towards biomechanics and mathematical modeling of biological systems. Where possible, I like to integrate different approaches to a biological question by combining experimental work, modeling, and fieldwork. I also strive to look for solutions outside of my field through collaborations with mathematicians and engineers, among others. The more pieces we have, the better we can solve the puzzle!
You can find more about my past and present work on my personal website: www.juliaesamson.com
Kati is a systems neuroscientist interested in exploring the mechanisms of flexible decision-making. She completed her PhD work with Camillo Padoa-Schioppa at Washington University of St Louis, where she studied contextual adaptation and correlated neural variability in decision-making circuits in the brain. In the Couzin lab, she will investigate group behavior in schooling fish, applying principles from neural models of decision-making. Using virtual reality and behavioral tracking, she will examine how schooling fish integrate social and non-social information when they navigate in various environments. Her work will bridge the gap between single-organism and group-level behavior.
Liang Li graduated from Peking University, researeching dynamics and control. He is fascinated by collective animal behavior and works towards integrating robotic fish within real groups as well as embedding real fish with virtual conspecifics. Liang has won many prizes for his work including the Champion of the Robot Competition in China and the RoboCup Open. He studied on Central Patten Generator (CPG), the development of a carangiform-like robot fish and energy saving in fish school.
Michael Smith is a social insect biologist interested in the patterns and processes of colony growth, development, and reproduction. Michael completed his PhD in 2017 with Tom Seeley, in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. There, he studied honey bee colony puberty, and how workers detect that their colony can “afford” to invest in reproductive infrastructure (drone comb). In the Couzin group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Michael will use automated tracking to investigate how individual honey bee workers detect and respond to the developmental state of their colony.
Previously he was a Royal Society Newton Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford working with Dr. Dora Biro. He has been a post-doc and he did his PhD in Physics at Eötvös University, Budapest with Professor Tamás Vicsek, studying collective motion and leader-follower relations in pigeon flocks and modelling self-propelled particles.
I am a behavioural ecologist who is interested in how different species use acoustic communication during social or collective behaviours. Many animals are incredibly vocal and may rely heavily on acoustic communication to coordinate group behaviours such as mobbing (harassing a predator to drive it from the area) and moving through their environment. My postdoctoral research is focused on how birds use vocal and visual information to coordinate group movement and maintain flock cohesion in a variety of environments. For this project I will be collaborating with other group members to employ a 3D acoustic tracking system to allow us to track both movements and vocal behaviour of all individuals in a flock as they travel through a semi-natural environment. During my PhD at the University of St Andrews, my research has focused on mobbing behaivour in tit species, how different tit species include information about a predator’s level of threat in their mobbing calls, and how this information is used by the wider avian community. More recently, during a postdoc through the university of Porto, Portugal, I conducted experiments to examine some of the underlying drivers for cooperative behaviour in sociable weavers, a small communal breeding passerine found in Southern Africa. More information can be found at my website: https://noravcarlson.weebly.com
Angela received her MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Trento where for her thesis she studied spatial and temporal coding of odorants in honeybee brains using in vivo calcium imaging analysis. During the course of her PhD, she wishes to examine decision making in noisy environments where cognition is an emergent property of the group. Thus, by combining her existing neuroscience training with the understanding of collective behaviour, she wishes to develop a more holistic understanding of cognition across scales of biological complexity.
Joseph is a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He earned a B.S. in neuroscience and an M.S. in biology from Bowling green State University, while working with Dr. Sheryl Coombs. His previous research focused on understanding how fish integrate sensory information in order to cope with the destabilizing effects of water currents. During this time, he briefly worked with schools of fish, which fascinated him and familiarized him with the Couzin lab. Upon finishing his masters, he was determined to return to collective behavior, leading him to contact Iain and join the lab. He is interested in understanding the sensory and neural basis of collective behavior, and how it changes throughout development.
Ben is an electrical engineer interested in how complex networks mediate the spread of information through groups. He earned a BSE in electrical engineering with a focus on machine learning from Princeton University where he wrote his thesis on the effect of weighted versus unweighted graphs on information flow.
personal website: benkoger.work
Photography website: http://cargocollective.com/benkoger
Matt is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton. He studies how the perception of risk affects information transfer through fish schools. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Matt researched the relative importance of different antipredator benefits of shoaling in threespine stickleback. He then spent a year in Seewiesen, Germany studying sleep and social foraging in great tits at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, funded by a Fulbright grant. On the side, Matt keeps a blog on biology, academia, and metal music: mattgrobis.blogspot.com.
Olivia is a PhD candidate at Princeton University. She is a member of both the Collective Behavior Lab, where she is advised by Dr. Iain Couzin, and the Social Learning Lab, which is directed by Dr. Daniel Rubenstein.
In her work, she applies an interdisciplinary approach to researching questions that focus on how environmental manipulations, such as social setting or the difficulty of a foraging task, affect animal movement and decision making behaviors during naturalistic search. To address these questions, she uses human visual search as a toy-model system, employing eye-tracking technology to record the location of gaze and attention during visual search tasks across a variety of social and environmental conditions. Her main goal is to produce a body of work that will be broadly informative to studies of animal movement and decision making. However, she is also interested in applying her work to the field of medical imaging, with the specific intention of determining whether or not social information in the form of shared-gaze could reduce the rate of false negative diagnoses and be a useful intervention for radiologists. Her personal website can be found here.
Guy is interested in how information is processed in biological systems. In particular, how information flows through biological collectives, such as fish schools. He hopes to combine experiments (using VR) and theory to tackle these questions. Guy received his BSc from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a MSc from Tel Aviv University, working on locust collective motion in changing landscapes.
Helder Hugo is a Ph.D. student with B.Sc. in Biology and M.Sc. in Entomology. Before joining Iain Couzin’s group at the Department of Collective Behavior in 2016, he had theoretical and practical experience with (i) systematics and ecology of spiders, (ii) integrated pest management, (iii) applied biological control, and (iv) behavioral ecology of termites. His research focuses on understanding underlying mechanisms of collective motion and decision-making in eusocial societies.
Hemal wants to explore new ways of studying animal behavior and understanding of the natural world using advance computer vision techniques. At Couzin lab, he is working on problems of 3D tracking and posture estimation for birds. The results would be used to understand social interaction among birds in a group. First part of his PhD was about developing computer vision methods for Industrial AR applications with Prof. Nassir Navab at Techincal University of Munich and EXTEND3D GmbH. In future he aims to use his skills for conservation related projects. Hemal loves birdwatching, writing and wandering in the Himalayas.
“We know no king but the king of documentaries whose name is Sir David Attenborough”.
Juliana earned her bachelor’s in Biological Science at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. She did research in behavior of monkeys, bird ecology, and neuroscience of birds. Her Master’s at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience – University of Lethbridge, focused on identifying regions with and density of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in the central nervous system of Richardson’s ground squirrels, focusing on sex behavioral differences.
For her Ph.D, she wants to understand how the brain evolved to generate complex social behaviors that affect interactions within big groups. She aims to see how the hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, affect specific regions in the brain that are controlling complex social interactions in animal groups.
Frederic is an evolutionary biologist with a background in behavioural ecology, computational biology and game theory. He is interested in how groups coordinate in order to explore and exploit their environment, and how the environment structures their behaviour.
Frederic received a MSc in Developmental, Neural and Behavioural Biology from the University of Göttingen studying an evolutionary model of individuals foraging in a complex environment.
Vivek is an Evolutionary Biologist interested in the interplay between individual and group level properties in animal societies. More specifically, how selection operating on decision rules adopted by individuals affects collective motion, environmental sensing, information propagation and decision making in animal societies and how these group level properties in turn affect individual fitness. He wishes to explore these ideas from both a mechanistic and functional perspective using both theory and experiments. Otherwise, Vivek enjoys sports and being outdoors in general.
In 2015, Tristan graduated the University of Bielefeld with a Masters degree in Intelligent Systems. Coming from a computer science background, he is interested in researching the properties of animal collectives. Using his background in virtual reality, computer graphics and computer vision he will focus on interdisciplinary approaches for researching a groups ability of collectively computing complex results.
Technischer Assistent/ Tierpfleger : Technical Assistant / Animal Keeper at Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology
Max- Planck Institut für Ornithologie
• 2006 TFA Universität Konstanz: 2006 Animal Research Lab at University of Constance
• 2011 MPI für Ornithologie Radolfzell Abteilung Wikelski: 2011 Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology / Dept. Wikelski
• 2015 MPI für Ornithologie Abteilung Couzin: 2015 Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology / Dept. Couzin
Christine received her Diploma in Biology from the University of Mainz in 2011 and has joined the Couzin lab in 2016 as a technical assistant. Here she is mostly responsible for the smooth organization of lab procedures, especially for zebrafish breeding to keep the VR experiments up and running
Jayme earned her BSc in Biology at Bowling Green State University with a specialization in marine and aquatic biology. She joined the team as a technician in 2016 to help with animal husbandry and assist researchers with setting up and running experiments. She wishes to use her communication and organizational skills to improve operations in the lab while diversifying her education in science.
October 2005 – October 2015: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department Biology (Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Department Prof. Dr. Axel Meyer, working for Prof. Dr. Gerrit Begemann, Developmental Biology fom 2007 until 2012, working for Assistant Professor PhD. Joost Woltering, Developmental Biology fom 2014 until 2015
August 2012 – October 2015: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department ‘Animal Research Lab’
December 2007 – June 2010: Biological technical assistant at the University of Konstanz Department Limnological Institute ( Walter – Schlienz Institut) working for Dr. Jasminca Behrmann – Godel, Senior scientist (group leader)
July 2003 – 2005: Education Biological technical assistant at the Jörg-Zürn-Gewerbeschule in Überlingen
Assistants to the Director
Katja is the assistant of Prof. Iain Couzin and contact person for press inquiries.
She holds a degree in Administrative Science with focus on management and European studies.
While living in Edinburgh for 7 years, she was an Animation Producer for childrens series and short films.