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.
Damien studies the evolutionary ecology of social and collective behaviour in wild vertebrates. He graduated with joint degrees in Microelectronic Engineering and Computer Science. This was followed by a research position at the CSIRO (Australia) investigating the potential role of bioenergy and biofuels in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Damien joined the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology (EGI) at the University of Oxford as a DPhil student in 2010, studying the role of individual decision-making in social structure and collective animal behaviour within and across species. He then spent one and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher working across several projects: one which investigated the spread of innovations and establishment of culture in wild great tits (at the EGI on a BBSRC funded grant awarded to Ben Sheldon, Lucy Aplin, Alex Thornton and Damien Farine) and a second which examined collective behaviour and group decision-making in wild baboons (at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of California Davis on an NSF funded fellowship with Dr. Meg Crofoot and Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf). In 2015, Damien started as a Principal Investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany, and remains as a Research Associate with the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.
Alex studies the complex social and collective systems of animals great and small – the ways single individuals come together to form much larger groups, and the feedback between the behaviour of groups and that of the individuals that compose them. His research program encompasses field studies in Africa, Australia, and the Americas, and lab approaches including molecular genetics, neurobiology of social interactions, and socio-cognitive behavioural assays. His group aims to understand both the proximate mechanisms and the ultimate outcomes of social interactions and behavioural plasticty. His research group page is here
Daniel is the Science Coordinator of Iain’s Department and of the Migration and Immuno-Ecology Department led by Martin Wikelski. He is working on establishing the department at the University of Konstanz. Daniel holds an MSc (FU Berlin) and PhD (Ulm University) in Biology. During his PhD and postdoc fieldwork in Brazil he realized that his true strength is rather organizing science for others than performing science himself. With this in mind, he became the coordinator of the IMPRS for Organismal Biology and built it from scratch. After four years of coordinating this grad school he was open for a new challenge and started to coordinate the two departments.
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.
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.
Adriana Maldonado is a Biologist from Colombia. She recently joined the Farine lab at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany. Adriana is interested in phenotypic plasticity and how variation in social behavior can drive changes in the emergent properties involving population dynamics and ecological interactions. She has worked on behavior and population ecology of capybaras with conservation objectives (MSc, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia) and investigated the sources of individual heterogeneity, such as phenotypic plasticity, and its effects on the long-term population dynamics on yellow-bellied marmots (PhD, University of California Los Angeles, USA). Her field of work includes ecological modeling, particularly, applying modeling tools to understanding the interplay between population and behavioral ecology and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. Adriana has recently started to use social network to study how phenotypic plasticity influences decision-making and collective behavior, and their effects on population dynamics.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 is a postdoc 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.
Sofia studies animal communication and the evolutionary processes underlying mate choice and social interactions. She recently completed her PhD with Prof Mike Ryan at UT Austin, looking at the interaction between acoustic signalling and chytrid infection in Tungara frogs. As a postdoc in the Jordan lab, she is studying how seismic communication is used by social spiders to coordinate group movements, and how the structure and connectivity of webs influence signal transmission.
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.
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.
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.
Danai earned her undergraduate Biology degree and her MSc from the University of Patras where she worked in the fields of urban avian diversity, bird migration and stopover ecology. In the meanwhile, she assisted as an intern in Germany, Denmark and Greece on several different projects including decision making in nectar feeding bats, passerine migration and breeding ecology, wildlife monitoring and conservation. During her PhD, she focuses on her main interest which is social structure and collective behaviour in animals. In particular she studies leadership and collective decision-making in captive helmeted and wild vulturine guineafowls, which form remarkably cohesive groups. Interflock interactions, dominance and collective movement attract Danai’s attention. She is also fascinated by field work and non-invasive experiments combined with the application of novel technology to track and analyse animal behaviour.
Mircea 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.
Etienne is using the Taganyikan Lamprologine cichlids in both lab and field to study the implications of sociality on brain anatomy, neural activation networks, and cognition. His work aims to uncover the substrates of social behaviour and determine the causes of variation in response to social stimuli among individuals and species.
Jake 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.
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.
Andrew 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 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.
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”.
Ian is a computational ethologist interested in understanding the relationship between perception, behaviour and social organisation. During his PhD, he is exploring the role of these dynamics in mate choice, extended cognition and group competition. He asks how animals actively shape their perception of the environment, the perception of themselves by others and the effect of the social context on these processes.
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.
Stephen earned degrees in Zoology and Conservation from the University of Exeter, and shortly after graduating became a Research Assistant at the University of Oxford, where he studied social behaviour in wild songbirds. His interests lie in understanding the foraging dynamics of predators, and exploring how predation as a selective pressure drives the collective behaviour of prey. He’s innately fascinated by the natural world, and loves the use of new technologies to explain it – particularly the application of modern tracking devices and 3D-mapping in wild systems. His other interests include science outreach and photography.
Simon is a Ph.D. 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.
Mariana is a PhD student in the Hofmann Lab at The University of Texas who is working with the Jordan Lab on the neurobiology of social learning in structured social 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.
Catherine 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.
Shoyo is a student with Gonzalo Giribet at Harvard, working together with the Jordan Lab to understand the evolution and mechanisms of social and collective behaviour in spiders.
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.
Alex studies social ontogeny and hierarchy within networks of the cichlid Neolamprologus multifasciatus
Fritz studies social interactions in Tanganyikan cichlids, using automated tracking and behavioural decomposition to quantify the differences among species.
Gustavo is a Colombian biologist who spent the early years of his career studying the birds in the Amazon forests, where he was involved in biological survey and conservation projects, exploring isolated areas with significant gaps of information. More recently, he has worked as a tutor of Biology and Evolution at the University of California in Los Angeles. Gustavo’s main interests are Conservation, Ornithology and Evolution, as well as the use of scientific knowledge to design environmental policies. Among other interests, Gustavo is an enthusiastic birdwatcher, and wildlife and portrait photographer. He is currently studying for a Masters in Biology at the University of Konstanz.
Jakob uses digital reconstruction techniques to quantify connectivity on spider webs and will be employing these techniques to understand social group structure and collective movement in the field.
James Klarevas-Irby earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Louisiana State University. After graduating, he spent two summers studying the breeding behaviors and nest-site selection of various bird species under researchers from the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He recently joined the Master’s program in Biology at the University of Konstanz. His primary interests involve the use of remote biomonitoring technologies to assess the behaviors and habitat needs of social groups in birds.
Lea graduated in Biology at the University of Konstanz. For her Bachelors thesis, she studied the social structure of Chilean dolphins (in collaboration with Yaqu Pacha Chile), where she had been involved in the field work for several years. She has now joined the Biology Master’s program at the University of Konstanz, and works with the Farine Lab on a project on a collective sensing of phenology in wild songbirds. She is generally interested in sociality in animals and how a species social structure is linked with other aspects of its biology.
Melanie is studying how the structure of social groups affects information flow and influence networks in communities of Lamprologine cichlids.
Paul studies the collective foraging behaviour of groups of Lamprologus callipterus known as ‘rolling’, using empirical and modeling approaches.
Jacqueline’s interests lie in behavioural biology and in particular on the mechanisms of collective behaviour. In the Jordan lab she is looking into the effect of social hierarchy in collective decision processes using Tanganyikan cichlids.
Kai’s interests include everything that moves, crawls and swims. He is using 3D behavioural tracking and digital web reconstruction approaches to understand how social and aggregative spiders communicate and create collective structures.
Karoline is currently studying biological sciences at the University of Konstanz. She works as a scientific assistant in the Jordan Lab, where she will be engaged in the research on cichlids and Nephila senegalensis. Primarily she is interested in animal behaviour and ecological traits, as well as in neuroscience.
Robert is modeling social interactions in communal spiders to understand how aggregations of otherwise aggressive individuals can form and be maintained.
Charlotte graduated with a Bachelor in Psychology & Zoology from the University of Bristol. Subsequently, she was a research assistant on the Dwarf Mongoose Project (DMP) in Limpopo, South Africa. This experience reinforced her passion for the field of behavioural ecology and experimental studies in wild animal populations. She completed a MSc by Research on the scent-marking and territorial behaviour of the dwarf mongoose Helogale parvula, with specific focus on short- and longer-term responses to rival intrusions. She spent 6 further months as PM at the DMP. Presently, she has moved from the smallest African carnivore to the largest species of guineafowl: the vulturine guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum. The possibility of investigating questions underpinning the evolution of group-living and the mechanisms of group decision-making, make this a very attractive study organism. Her role as a field assistant for the Farine Lab at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya, primarily involves the preliminary data-collection of inter- and intra-group interactions and movement, through field observations and tracking GPS-tagged individuals within the groups.
John Ewoi has been working at the Mpala Research Centre for over 10 years and has collaborated on numerous projects. Examples include sampling mosquitos for research into malaria, photographing the distinct flank stripes on Grevy zebra to identify individuals, and trapping spider mice in cliffy habitats. His main area of research assisting, however, has been focussed on the Grant’s gazelles for the last 7 years. This involved collecting behavioural data in the field, ear-tagging gazelles, tracking collared gazelles using telemetry and doing lab-based faecal parasite counts. Presently, he has joined the Vulturine Guineafowl Project research group, where his vast experience in the bush has been truly indispensable. The GPS-data is what excites John the most as it will give a unique insight into where these birds roam when no one is watching…
Sylvester Karimi, locally known as Stalone, has worked with the Ornithology section in the Zoology department of the National Museum of Kenya for the last 16 years. Here he has assisted on avian flu surveillance, annual water fowl census and migration ringing in Tsavo National Park. Lending his expertise to short-term projects has taken him around the country: GPS collaring endemic Aberdare cisticolas in the Aberdare ranges, telemetry tracking the endangered Taita thrush in the Taita hills, ringing Papyrus gonolek by Lake Victoria and surveying Kori bustards in Marsabit. His ornithological work has also taken him on international expeditions along Israeli migration routes, Hungary with the Earthwatch and Taiwan for behavioural observation work, to name but a few! He has been dividing his time between Nairobi and Mpala Research Centre for the last four years. Although it was the grey-capped social weavers that brought him here, he is now a full-time member of the Vulturine Guineafowl Project. Needless to say he will be worth his weight in gold with his knowledge and experience in handling birds. To date, very little is known about these striking birds and Sylvester is keen to find out more about their moulting and how plumage changes throughout the life stages.
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
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
External Dept. Members
Neeltje is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, University of Oxford. She studies developmental drivers of avian social network positions, and is experimentally manipulating early-life conditions to quantify the effects on later social behaviour, both within and across generations, in wild great tits. Neeltje is a Research Associate with the Department of Collective Behaviour, working with Damien Farine on the ontogeny of social behaviour and social learning strategies in zebra finches and guineafowl.
Assistants to the Director
Katja is the assistant of Prof. Iain Couzin
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.