Structure and dynamics of animal groups
Why are we interested in animal groups? We see them as particular instances of social organisations, which share similar problems as the more socially complex primates that we are. Examples of these problems are: coordination of decisions, formation of hierarchies and leadership, coherent motion, social influence, collaboration, cooperation and conflict management. Thus, by studying such groups, we also learn about social organisations at large and how they solve the prevalent tension between adaptation and robustness.
Our focus is on social animal groups for which detailed individual data are available. This allows us to understand the relation between the individual behaviour and the collective dynamics. Our methodology encompasses several approaches, from the analysis of large-scale data sets to agent-based models of interacting individuals and mathematical investigations of the resulting structure and group dynamics. Whenever applicable, we benefit from a comparative approach between social animal species, and we try to contribute to the biological understanding of each species we study.
Structure and dynamics of wild house mouse groups
We have analysed and modelled the behaviour of wild house mice, using data from a long-term field project headed by Prof. Barbara König, University of Zurich. Our focus was on reconstructing the spatial movement patterns of individual mice and their time-dependent network of interactions.
Some related data/model visualisations (link to the corresponding publication in the video's description):
Structure and dynamics of meerkat groups
We have helped to collect and afterwards analysed and modelled positional and behavioural data on wild meerkat groups, coming from a long-term field project headed by Prof. Marta Manser (University of Zurich) and Prof. Tim Clutton-Brock (University of Cambridge). Our focus was on reconstructing the correlated spatial movement of the dominating individuals and its impact on the group's behaviour.
Some related data/model visualisation (link to the corresponding publication in the video's description):
Structure and dynamics of Bechstein's bat colonies
We have analysed and modelled the behaviour and social structure of wild Bechstein's bat colonies, working with Prof. Gerald Kerth (University of Greifswald) and his team on roosting data. Our focus was on reconstructing the long-term social network of bats and their collective decision dynamics in choosing common roost sites.