Iain Couzin is Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Department of Collective Behaviour and the Chair of Biodiversity and Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, Germany. 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, the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 2013, a Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics, formerly Thompson Reuters) Global Highly Cited Researcher in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the Lagrange Prize “the first, and most important, international recognition in the field of complexity science” in 2019, and the Falling Walls Life Sciences Award and Leibniz Prize (Germany’s highest research honor) in 2022.
Liang Li is a Project Leader of VR and Robotics in the Couzin Lab. He is fascinated by robot-inspired collective behaviour—building and applying “robotics” to generate and test hypotheses in collective animal behaviour. With the VR project, he is currently exploring the basic sensory-motor control mechanisms in schooling fish by creating virtual environments and projecting virtual robots as neighbours to transferring controllable spatiotemporal information. With the robotics project, he is currently constructing high-fidelity robotic fish, with fish-like morphology, locomotion, and movements, to interact with real fish to explore whether, and if so how, fish benefit by swimming in groups. Web: www.liang-phd.com
My research aims at understanding the evolution of family living, as well cooperation among unrelated individuals. I rely on my long-term study system, the Siberian jay, which we study in Swedish Lapland, 80km south of Arctic Circle. In addition, I am interested in questions relating to language like adaptations (call meaning, syntax).
I have diverse research interests in animal communication, cognition, collective behaviours, social evolution, and a strong inclination towards studying animals in natural settings.
During my PhD, I studied social learning and flexibility in the vocal communication of wild vervet monkeys in South Africa. My work involved both detailed natural observations and novel field experiments with the broader aim of gaining insights into potential precursors of human language.
Here in Konstanz, I will investigate collective movement and decision-making in wild Gelada monkeys using advanced imaging technology developed by the HerdHover team.
Aya Goldshtein conducted her Ph.D. at Tel-Aviv University where she studied foraging decision-making and navigation capacities in bats. During her research she studied the mutual relationship between nectar-feeding bats and their food source, the Saguaro cacti, revealing the foraging strategy and the decision process bats deal with while consuming the cacti’s nectar. She is now interested in expanding these questions and unravels the foraging strategy and the decision process of hummingbird hawk-moth.
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
I am interested in the hydrodynamics of swimming and flying animals. Using the computational fluid dynamics (CFD), I have investigated the flow around the pitching foil, self-propelling foil and multiple foils to show how swimming fish actively and/or passively controls the fluid.
Dan has a background in theoretical physics. He is interested to apply ideas from theoretical physics to study collective animal behaviour.
Daniel has a background in physics but over the years studied many types of collectives at multiple levels (amoebae, fish, lymphocytes and termites). His approach to studying these complex systems is through a combination of quantitative experiments and computational methods to analyse experimental data. From proposing relevant experiments to the analyses that uncover the mechanisms behind the complex features animals and cells display, leading to computer simulations which reproduce and test the limits of the proposed mathematical description.
My interests involve a broad range of research areas including behavior, cognition, evolution, and sociality. For my PhD, I studied how decision-making processes in individual cephalopods are shaped by social contexts, including with heterospecifics. Multispecific groups provide complex interaction scenarios where the existence of distinct species-specific hunting strategies entails distinguishing among social information sources differing in morphology, behavior, and cognition. In Konstanz, I will continue working with collective hunting groups of octopus and fish and analyze how group coordination and decision-making is shaped by individuals with markedly distinct movement patterns that have diverged long ago in the evolutionary tree of life.My interests involve a broad range of research areas including behavior, cognition, evolution, and sociality. For my PhD, I studied how decision-making processes in individual cephalopods are shaped by social contexts, including with heterospecifics. Multispecific groups provide complex interaction scenarios where the existence of distinct species-specific hunting strategies entails distinguishing among social information sources differing in morphology, behavior, and cognition. In Konstanz, I will continue working with collective hunting groups of octopus and fish and analyze how group coordination and decision-making is shaped by individuals with markedly distinct movement patterns that have diverged long ago in the evolutionary tree of life.
I have been fascinated by insects, especially ants, since my early childhood and have spent countless hours observing them in the wild and later also in the laboratory. During my masters, I worked on ants living in an intricate symbiosis with an ant-plant in Costa Rica. Since then, I have mostly worked with social insects, from road construction in meat ants to olfactory conditioning in honeybees. During my PhD, I investigated how cognitive abilities of ants can drive individual or collective decisions. Here in Konstanz, I investigate collective sensing in groups of desert locusts. Using individual tracking, I try to understand and to reconstruct how information spreads through the group and how individual decisions affect the system. Moreover, I will also investigate foraging dynamics of ant colonies to better understand how insect groups organise themselves.
During her PhD in computational neuroscience Lior studied the role of noise in decision-making, focusing on idiosyncratic choice biases and their neural basis.
At the Couzin group Lior will design field experiments and use advanced computational methods to study the effect of spatial constraints on individual and collective decision-making dynamics.
Luke is a researcher with a broad background in physical sciences and engineering. He joined the department after finishing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech where he worked on multiscale modeling approaches for studying hydrogen effects in metals. Luke enjoys learning about new subjects and the challenge of working of problems across fields. In his research moving forward he hopes to merge bottom-up modeling and analytic techniques from materials science and physics into the study of collective behavior in animal groups.
Mark has a background in mathematical and theoretical physics. He received his Ph.D. from the Australian National University in 2019, where he specialised in string theory and higher-dimensional black holes. He spent 2 years at Charles University in Prague working as a postdoc, and is now moving to Konstanz to begin a project studying the collective behaviour of animals in the hydrodynamic limit using a fluid mechanics approach.
From bacterial populations to human groups, evolution has produced a high level of organization. For this to happen, biological populations need to address different challenges. They need to solve strategic problems, such as collective action and coordination problems. They also often need to collectively acquire and process a vast amount of information to respond to environmental or societal challenges. I try to understand how biological populations successfully perform these tasks and how, from large-scale ecological patterns to social norms, order and organization are produced out of the interaction between the individuals and evolution. I pursue this goal along different directions. I use ideas and methods from the physics of complex systems and information theory to understand how collectives make better decisions by sharing information and how the structure and dynamics of the communication network affect their capabilities. Besides, I use evolutionary and behavioral game theory to understand how individuals in groups solve strategic problems and how social structures, such as social norms, emerge and help solve strategic problems. Finally, I am interested in understanding how large-scale ecological patterns emerge from the interaction between biological organisms.
Sophia is interested in how information travels through collectives and how those are able to reach decisions together based on the nature of the information and its spread. Her background is in behavioral neuroscience, acquired while studying phototaxis in zebrafish larvae during her PhD in the Laboratoire Jean Perrin at Sorbonne Université (Paris). She now focuses on questions related to individual and collective navigation, as well as information transfer and decision-making within groups, using a virtual reality system for freely moving fish.
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.
I received my MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Trento where for my thesis I studied spatial and temporal coding of odorants in honeybee brains using in vivo calcium imaging analysis. For my PhD I am studying how groups of fish cope with the presence of parasitism in their living environment. In general I am interested in examining decision making in noisy environments where cognition is an emergent property of the group.
Living in Konstanz is also very lucky for outdoor activities, in particular for lake water sports. In my spare time I love sailing, swimming in open waters and diving. When the german weather doesn’t allow water activities, I also really enjoy different arts including painting, carving, drawing, music, and learning something very exciting that I don’t yet know about.
During my Bachelor’s degree at ETH Zurich and Uppsala University, I studied a wide range of biological topics, from neurobiology to molecular biology and marine biology. In my Master’s degree, I specialised in immunology and microbiology and investigated the evolution of the collective behaviour of bacteria in my thesis. Subsequently, I worked as a research assistant on projects about the evolution of cooperative predation in bacteria and about the eco-evolutionary dynamics of microbial communities. In my PhD, I want to learn more about computation in biological networks and compare collective decision-making at different levels such as in animal social networks and neural networks.
Conor is a PhD student interested in the basic principles underlying the dynamics and organization of complex systems. In particular, he investigates the notion that such systems, from single cells to economies, look as if they implicitly ‘model’ their surroundings. In pursuing this idea, he relies heavily on a theoretical framework called the Free Energy Principle. He completed a BA in Neuroscience at Swarthmore College and a MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Göttingen, with a focus on computational neuroscience and active inference. Currently, Conor borrows methods from non-equilibrium thermodynamics, control theory, and Bayesian inference to understand emergent inference in collective behavioral systems.
Having earned a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences, I went on to do a Master’s program in Ecology and Environment Sciences chasing butterflies and birds. I have diverse interests, which keep broadening as I get to try out new things. For my master’s dissertation, I studied choice preference in zebrafish in the presence of an ‘irrelevant’ alternative. During my PhD, I hope to study patterns in animal social networks in different contexts and scales and what drive such patterns
Ahmed El Hady is a principal investigator and research scientist at the center for advanced study of collective behavior (Uni Konstanz). He is a neuroscientist who worked on a variety of problems from the biophysics of the action potential, the collective behavior of neuronal networks to the neural mechanisms underlying decision making in rats. His current research interests revolve around formal theories of social foraging across species and the implementation of large scale foraging experiments with rodents in the newly built imaging hangar at the University of Konstanz.
Armin seeks to understand the nervous system computations underlying animal decision-making. His work focuses on the larval zebrafish, a small and almost perfectly translucent vertebrate with a brain similar to ours. Zebrafish have a rich and innately present behavioral repertoire and are amenable to genetic modifications. These features allow Armin’s group to combine precise tracking experiments, cognitive algorithmic modeling, whole-brain activity imaging, genomic sequencing, and targeted circuit manipulations, to in detail dissect the neural basis of decision-making. His group website is here: www.neurobiology-konstanz.com/bahl
I am head of the animal facility in Iain’s department, as well as responsible for work- and laser- safety. I further coordinate the day-to-day tasks in the labs. I received my Diploma in Biology and Doctorate in Natural Sciences from the Gutenberg Universität Mainz, Germany. During my first PostDoc, in the lab of Andrea Streit, King’s College London, UK, I studied inner ear development in the chick embryo. I moved on to looking into synapse formation and circuit homeostasis in the mouse spinal cord, when relocating to Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York, USA, to join the lab of Julia Kaltschmidt (now in Stanford).
Upon returning to Europe, I left research to coordinate first the Excellence Initiative funded Graduate School Quantitative Bioscience Munich, then helped establish the International Max Planck Research School for Translational Psychiatry, also in Munich.
My interest to support research beyond the coordination of graduate programmes brought me to Konstanz. I have a strong interest in Research Integrity and train Graduate Students, PostDocs and Faculty Members in Good Scientific Practices, as well as provide council in the role of Ombudsperson for the MPI-AB.
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
I am very interested in biology and wish to diversify my knowledge in this subject, especially how animals behave.In my spare time I always love to observe animals in my surroundings, mostly invertebrates. I keep ant colonies, hermit crabs and spiders like Nephila and Phidippus and it is always fascinating to see how they interact with their surroundings and each other. At the Max-Planck-Institute of Animal Behavior I mostly take care of the zebra fish but I am looking forward to learn more and maybe some day I can work with invertebrates like ants or spiders.
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
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
Brian is a PhD student from the University of California Berkeley, visiting the Couzin lab as a DAAD research fellow. He studies the aggressive behaviors of social trematodes (i.e., flatworms, blood flukes), specifically how trematode soldier morphs perceive their enemies, and decide to attack them. Using computer vision, he is testing if soldiers in combat might “recruit” other soldiers into collective defense of their colony. His other work involves colony recognition in ants at the Tsutusi lab in Berkeley, and his primary research interest is to study social evolution in parasites.
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.
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.
Andrew is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He is interested in understanding why organisms move in the ways that they do and how movement affects ecological processes. He uses experiments, mathematics, and high-performance computational models to understand the rules organisms use to make movement decisions, and how movement influences ecological kinetics and ecosystem dynamics.
Helder Hugo is a behavioural ecologist interested in how animal groups form, function and evolve. Currently, his research investigates Neotropical termite species and focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms of collective behaviour in socially complex organisms. Specifically, Helder is interested in the functioning and evolution of both individual- and group-level behaviours observed among animal collectives. His background includes a BSc & Licenciatura in Biological Sciences (2009), an MSc in Entomology (2016), besides theoretical and practical experience in (i) taxonomy. and ecology of spiders, (ii) integrated pest management, (iii) applied biological control, and (iv) behavioural ecology of termites.
TWITTER @helder_hugo INSTAGRAM helder.hugo.santos
I 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
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.
Colin 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.