Iain Couzin


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 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, 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 and 2020 and the Lagrange Prize in 2019.

Post-doctoral Fellows

McKenna Kelly


My research involves integrating neurobiology, development, evolution, and behavior to understand the proximate and ultimate causes behind sociality in birds. During my PhD at Cornell University, I studied the role the nonapeptides (oxytocin, vasopressin, and their non-mammalian homologues) play in regulating parental care and maintaining pair bonds in zebra finches. I also determined that corticosterone plays no role in regulating helping behavior in cooperatively breeding Mexican jays. I have also studied how sociality influences numerical cognition in Mexican jays and Woodhouse’s scrub jays. In the Couzin lab, I am collaborating with the imaging barn group to studying how hormones regulate individual and group flocking decisions in quail. These experiments will employ the state of the art 3D acoustic tracking system developed by the lab to track every individual quail’s movements and vocal communication in a semi-natural environment.

Aya Goldshtein


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 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. She is currently leading the HerdHover project

personal website:


Daniel Calovi

dcalovi(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de – Fotograf Konstanz

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.

Felix Oberhauser

foberhauser(at)ab(dot)mpg(dot)de – Fotograf Konstanz

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.

Jacob Davidson


Jacob is a theoretical biologist interested in collective movement and decision-making of animal groups. With a background in physics and aerospace engineering, he is now working on data-driven approaches to modeling collective behavior.  His current projects examine evidence accumulation, group decision-making, and differences in individual behaviors.  He is also working on using machine learning with deep networks to model individual and group motion.



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.  


Luke Costello


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 Bugden


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.

Ph.D. Students

Angela Albi


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.

Twitter: @albi_angela
Instagram: @aalbiang


Ben Koger


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:

Photography website:












Conor Heins


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.

Guy Amichay


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


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




Kajal Kumari


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

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.


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


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



Cyrill Fromm


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 Weglarski

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.


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

Katja Anderson


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.