Marina Papadopoulou – bio & abstract

BioMaths Colloquium Series – 2023/24
4 October 2023 – 1pm

Join us at 12:45 for coffee tea and biscuits in Wallace room 218 ( Singleton Campus)
or Zoom (register here)

Dr Marina Papadopoulou

(Swansea University)

Animal groups into the Swarm-Verse: understanding collective motion through individual-based models across species and ecological contexts


Dr Marina Papadopoulou is a postdoctoral researcher at Swansea University, working on the 2G-SWARM project to develop biologically inspired algorithms of animal collective motion that include individual heterogeneity. Her scientific interest lies on understanding how complex patterns of collective behaviour emerge through self-organization, especially in social systems. She works together with behavioural biologists, using data of many animals group across different ecological contexts (for instance, while foraging or under predator attack), computer simulations, and concepts of complexity science, to identify the mechanisms that underly collective phenomena in nature, and apply this theoretical knowledge to tackle human-wildlife conflicts.


Collective behaviour is all around us, from flocks of birds in the sky and schools of fish in the sea to groups of humans at concerts and pelotons of cyclists at the Tour de France. Understanding these systems has been challenging, given the complexity that arises from individuals behaving according to their own motives while interacting with each other in space and time. From these local interactions, complex collective patterns emerge; these systems are governed by a process called self-organization. Computational and mathematical models have been proven necessary to understand these phenomena, since the effect of individual behaviour on the collective dynamics cannot be predicted a priori or inferred through direct observations. In this talk, I will give an overview of how individual-based models have helped us understand counter-intuitive mechanisms that underlie the behaviour of animal groups. How do thousands of starlings coordinate in flocks to produce the fascinating murmurations we observe in the sky? Why is the behaviour of a fish school similar to that of a baboon troop? How do pigeon flocks escape a robotic predator? Can we learn from a shepherd dog’s strategy to control wildlife using drones? Finally, I will present our new framework that combines empirical data, dimensionality reduction techniques, and computational models to study inter- and intra- group variation in collective motion across species: the Swarm-Verse.

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