Department of Mathematics

Modeling Collective Decision Making in Animal Groups

Recent research on collective behavior in animal groups has focused on complex patterns emerging from local interaction between nearly identical individuals. In my research, I explore the effects that individual differences and individual-level behavior have on group-level patterns. In particular, I apply mathematical modeling techniques to learning how groups of social animals make important decisions in situations where no single individual has complete information. I collaborate with experimental biologists studying honey bees, Argentine and Temonothorax ants, and humans to develop models (stochastic, Markovian, and agent-based) that are able to predict group-level decisions from the information presented to the individuals and the local interactions between these individuals.

Photo by Tanya Latty. 

The photo is showing bees foraging at a high quality feeder during an experiment on dynamic bee foraging. A number of the bees are marked, meaning they have been trained to one of the feeders and are either just exploiting that feeder, recruiting colony mates via the waggle dance, or have been recruited to this feeder by other foraging bees. 
Reference:  Behavioral Ecology (2012) doi: 10.1093/beheco/ars002