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Iain Couzin

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Princeton University

Collective Motion and Decision-Making in Animal Groups

Monday, March 8, 2010
Science I 149, 5:00 PM

Abstract

Grouping organisms, such as schooling fish, often have to make rapid decisions in uncertain and dangerous environments. Decision-making by individuals within such aggregates is so seamlessly integrated that it has been associated with the concept of a “collective mind”. As each organism has relatively local sensing ability, coordinated animal groups have evolved collective strategies that allow individuals to access higher-order computational abilities at the collective level. Using a combined theoretical and experimental approach involving insect and vertebrate groups, I will address how, and why, individuals move in unison and investigate the principles of information transfer in these groups, particularly focusing on leadership, collective consensus decision-making and the evolution of collective animal behavior.

Biography

Iain joined the Princeton faculty in late 2007 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Previously he was a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford and Junior Research Fellow in the Sciences at Balliol College, Oxford. He did his Ph.D at the University of Bath, UK. 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 systems from cellular aggregates to insect swarms, fish schools and human crowds. He is a member of the Faculty of 1000 Biology and in recognition of his research he was a recipient of a Searle Scholar Award in 2008 and the Mohammed Dahleh Award in 2009.

Assigned Readings

  1. Couzin, I.D. (2009) Collective cognition in animal groups. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13(1), 36-43.

Suggested Readings

  • Torney, C. Neufeld, Z. & Couzin, I.D. (2009) Context-dependent interaction leads to emergent search behavior in social aggregates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106(52), 22055-22060.
  • Bazazi, S., Buhl, J., Hale, J.J., Anstey, M.L., Sword, G.A., Simpson, S.J. & Couzin, I.D. (2008) Collective motion and cannibalism in locust migratory bands.Current Biology 18(10), 735-739.
  • Couzin, I.D. (2007) Collective minds. Nature 445, 715.
  • Simpson, S.J., Sword, A.G., Lorch, P.D. & Couzin, I.D. (2006) Cannibal crickets on a forced march for protein and salt. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 103, 4152-4156.
  • Buhl, J., Sumpter, D.J.T, Couzin, I.D., Hale, J., Despland, E., Miller, E. & Simpson, S.J. (2006) From disorder to order in marching locusts. Science 312, 1402-1406.
  • Couzin, I.D., Krause, J., Franks, N.R. & Levin, S.A. (2005) Effective leadership and decision making in animal groups on the move. Nature 433, 513-516.

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