Iain Couzin

Iain (photo by Gabriel Miller)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 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.


Post-doctoral Fellows

Renaud Bastien

IMG-20151020-WA0000Renaud 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.

Blair Costelloe

blairBlair 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.

Simon Gingins



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.

Jolle Jolles

Photo JolleJolle 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

Liang Li

Liang LiLiang 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.  

Matthew Lutz

Matthew is a biologist and architect. His work across disciplines is driven by a desire to understand how simple rules and interactions between individuals give rise to complex pattern and structure at higher levels of organization. He completed his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton in 2016 with Iain Couzin, where the focus of his dissertation was the self-assembled structures built by army ants of the genus Eciton out of their own bodies. He conducted field experiments in Panama to understand the dynamics of these structures and their adaptive benefits at the colony level. Prior to this, he received an MS in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University, where he focused on developing computational methods of generative design inspired by the self-organizing principles of collective animal behaviour. As a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Jordan Lab, Matthew is researching the interactions between building behaviour, web structure and group living in social spiders.

Mate Nagy

mate1Mate is is a biological physicist who is interested in collective animal behaviour and applying/developing state-of-the-art automated measurement techniques and analysis methods.

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 Eotvos University, Budapest with Professor Tamas Vicsek, studying collective motion and leader-follower relations in pigeon flocks and modelling self-propelled particles.

Oren Forkosh

Oren is a postdoOrenc in the CouzinLab in the Department of Collective Behaviour, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz as well as in the ChenLab in the Department of Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow with Alon Chen and Elad Schneidman at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel where he also undertook his Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Computer Science with Elad Schneidman on “Modeling Social Interactions in Groups of Animals: A Maximum Entropy Approach”. He obtained an M.Sc. from the Weizmann in Mathematics and Computer Science and his B.Sc. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Physics and Mathematics. He is working with Iain on developing and utilizing new technologies for the 3D tracking of animals in groups as well as computational tools for investigating social interactions and consistent inter-individual behavioral differences.

Ph.D. Students

Angela Albi

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.


Twitter: @albi_angela

Guy Amichay

GUYGuy 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) with simulations to tackle these questions. Guy received his BSc from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MSc from Tel Aviv University, working on locust collective motion in changing landscapes.

Joe Bak-Coleman


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.

Mircea Davidescu

Mircea_Davidescu_original-65497f154a1298a45854d90c816501e1Mircea is a Ph.D student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology interested in collective decision-making of cells and its role in metazoan evolution. He earned a double-bachelor degree in Biochemistry and Computer Science from the University of New Brunswick, Canada in 2012. He has held sponsored research internships on a variety of topics ranging from drug discovery to quantum computing, and has also written a history book in his spare time. He is also interested in bio-inspired algorithms and computer graphics.

Jake Graving

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.22.49 PMJake is a neuroethologist and sensory ecologist interested in studying how sensory information is processed by the brain and used for collective decision-making. He earned a B.S in Biology and a M.S. in Biology at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio, USA) working with Drs. Daniel Wiegmann and Verner Bingman to study how amblypygids, a group of arachnids, use visual, olfactory, and mechanosensory information to navigate home in the dark.

Twitter: @jgraving

Matt Grobis

grobisMatt 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:

Olivia Guayasamin

olivia_original-59eff1da34f82ce612a5eeef86a20f6fOlivia 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.

Andrew Hartnett

andrewh_original_original-91f8deda53817c7d956820fe622e25b4Andrew is a Physics Ph.D. student studying large fish schools. He is particularly interested in the dynamics of individual interaction rules and understanding the implications of group structure on information processing in multi-agent biological systems.

Helder Hugo dos Santos

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 doctoral research focuses on understanding underlying mechanisms of species coexistence and conflict management. Specifically, he is interested in why and how organisms, sometimes notably different from each other, are able to establish long-term stable cohabitations and deal with eventual conflicts.

e-mail    twitter @helder_hugo


Hemal Naik

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”.








Jian Zhao

Jian is working with with the Couzin and Jordan labs to develop an automated behavioural assay to assess the hunger level of cichlids. This will be used to maximise feeding efficiency and minimise wastage and nutrient pollution in aquaculture systems.

Simon Leblanc

Simon is a Ph.SimonLeblancD. student in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University coadvised by Iain Couzin and Simon Levin. With a background in engineering, mechanical and mathematical modeling, he studies predator-prey interactions of schooling fish using datasets of real predation events in the wild, the speed and robustness of information transfer within large swarms using evolutionary models and network properties of swarms relying on visual interactions using computational models.



Frederic Nowak

Frederic NowakFrederic 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.

Catherine Offord

cofford_original-65e52bd9552ee9e1934e13193434d389Catherine holds a BA in Biological Sciences from Oxford University, where she was first introduced to behavioural economics and collective decision making. After a year spent with spiders at the Oxford Silk Group, she moved to the Couzin lab to study collective behaviour in social insects, with a focus on the role of variation within groups. She has an inordinate fondness for ants and is interested in how the composition of colonies affects their sensitivity to the environment.

Vivek Hari Sridhar

image001-3Vivek 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.

Twitter: @vivekhsridhar


Colin Twomey

ColinTwomey_original_original-77b37a53a4d81bb621484d808e8ccf1dColin is interested in group motion and decision-making processes, and the evolution of individual behaviors that generate coordinated behavior at the group level. He studies these subjects using experimental, theoretical, and computational techniques. He is also interested in algorithms inspired by biological processes for solving NP-hard problems.

Tristan Walter

Tristan WalterIn 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.



Twitter: @beingtristan

Research Assistants

Geoffrey Mazué

Geoffrey MAZUEI am an empirical biologist, with a strong interest in social behavior within groups of animals. In particular, I aims to get a better understanding of information transfer and collective decision-making in groups of fish. On a broader context, I am also very interested in individual differences within populations (e.g. personality traits), how social units are structured in nature, predator-prey interaction as well as theory of games and sexual selection. Even though I am keen to work on any model species, I tend to be fascinated by fish behaviour. I earned a Master Degree in Behavioural Ecology from the Université de Bourgogne (Dijon, France).

 Position: research assistant


Tweeter: @GeoffreyMazue


Alexander Bruttel

IMG_6569Geb. 5.06.1988 : Born 5th of June 1988

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

Dominique Leo

199A0159October 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