Animal Collectives

Animal groups often have to make life or death decisions in the absence of clear leader and limited individual information. How do social animals make sense of the world and why do they live together in the first place?

Animal groups have a remarkable capacity to collectively navigate, forage, hunt, and avoid predators. My early research focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying effective collective behavior in fish schools.

Several of my earlier papers focused on understanding how fish orient to currents, both alone or in groups. Despite being a simple behavior (i.e., turning), orientation to currents (rheotaxis) is essential to avoid being carried downstream, intercept drifting food, and navigate. Fish in currents receive noisy information about the direction of moving water through touch, vision, vestibular cues, and through the movements of others.

During my Master’s at Bowling Green State University, I worked with Prof. Sheryl Coombs to uncover how fish combine this messy multi-sensory input and keep on swimming. A review of that work, published in 2020 can be found here. Beyond orientation to currents, other work on animal collectives has focused on the benefits of group living from fish to zebras (forthcoming).

Related Work

  • Rheotaxis revisited: a multi-behavioral and multisensory perspective on how fish orient to flow
  • Going with, then against the flow: evidence against the optomotor hypothesis of fish rheotaxis
  • Individual and collective encoding of risk in animal groups
  • Vortex phase matching as a strategy for schooling in robots and in fish
  • Selected Media Coverage

  • What the Science of Animal Networks Reveals About Protests, Wired
  • Robots help to answer age-old question of why fish school, Scienmag