We have been awarded an UGC-UKIERI grant for collaboration with Colin Torney

We are delighted that we have been awarded an UGC-UKIERI grant for collaboration with Colin Torney in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Glasgow and my colleague Dr Kavita Isvaran at CES. The grant amount is around 25,000 UK Pounds (equivalent to around 25 lakhs) and is valid from March 2018 – March 2020.

The ideas and work proposed here are by PhD student Akanksha Rathore who is jointly advised by me and Kavita. The grant will help both of our groups to travel back and forth, and work on investigating collective behaviour of blackbuck in the wild.

This is our second collaborative grant with Colin Torney, the previous one being funded by Royal Society which was instrumental in starting our collaboration as well as getting this grant.





Congratulations to Sabiha Majumder and Jaideep Joshi for their successful completion of PhD!!!

2018 has been a fantastic year for our lab.

HUGE congratulations to two lab members (now, unfortunately, former lab members) — Sabiha Majumder and Jaideep Joshi – for the successfully defending their thesis.

Sabiha Majumder








Sabiha Majumder defended her thesis on 26th February 2018. She joined IISc as an Integrated PhD student in the Department of Physics. Her Physics adviser was Prof Sriram Ramaswamy and with us she worked on “Multiple stable states and abrupt transitions in ecosystems”. She made some extremely important contributions to our understanding on patterns and dynamics ecosystems with multiple stable states, whether we can anticipate them via measuring simple quantities from field data, and whether we can even estimate threshold/critical points of such ecosystems.

Sabiha has joined as a postdoctoral fellow at Crowther Lab at ETH-Zurich. All the best for her future work. She will be badly missed in our lab.

Jaideep Joshi









Jaideep defended his thesis on 30th January 2018. He joined IISc as a PhD student at CES and worked on some deeply insightly theoretical aspects of the evolution of cooperation in spatial systems. Apart from working with me, he also established his own collaborations as part of his thesis. After his PhD, he has joined as a postdoctoral researcher at Divecha Centre for Climate Change, IISc with prof Sukumar of CES. All the best to Jaideep for his future endeavours!

Jaideep Joshi’s paper on mobility and cooperation

We have a bunch of papers from the lab that I haven’t time to announce on the website (but I do active tweet about them!). Here, I briefly post about the first thesis chapter of Jaideep Joshi is now published in Plos Computational Biology. It’s a really cool theory paper on mobility can actually promote cooperation.


(The above picture is from Figure 1 of the manuscript Joshi et al 2017, Mobility can promote the evolution of cooperation via emergent self-assortment dynamics, PLoS Computational Biology, 13(9): e1005732).

The way we set up the problem is that can we have cooperation in mobile organisms if we exclude well known mechanisms that facilitate the evolution of cooperation. Yes, indeed, we can find cooperation via emergent assortment of cooperators. This paper shows this counter-intuitive using heavy simulations of active or self-propelled particles, simulations of passive particles in turbulent media, and an analytical theory. All of it packed into a single paper.

Here is a nice summary of this work written by Ananya from Research Matters, a popular science communication webpage:

Classically, it has been argued that cooperative interactions evolve mostly among genetic relatives or individuals in close-knit environments – like the lions or the buffaloes. There is also the factor that these animals are mobile and often split and merge depending on the availability of food. What, then, could be the motivation for cooperative interactions to emerge among such dynamic groups that are not genetically related?

“Much of the earlier research on cooperation thought that mobility was a hindrance to the evolution of cooperation. This is because mobility allows defectors to invade and destroy clusters of co-operators, which are necessary for cooperation to sustain”, says Mr. Joshi. In their study, published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, the researchers have considered two scenarios for mobility – one, where the individuals move through self-propulsion such as fishes and birds, and second, where the individuals move due to the flow of the medium they live in such as microbes.

The study demonstrates that, rather than hinder it, mobility can help animals evolve cooperation to form groups even among unknown individuals without any kinship. “Our study is like a thought-experiment, but aided by sophisticated theoretical and computational tools. However, our model can easily be adapted to real systems by incorporating features specific to those systems. These could include cancer cells, quorum sensing bacteria, mixed species bird flocks, or even grouping mammals such as spotted deer, baboons and elephants”, signs off Dr. Joshi.

Visitors at the turn of the year!

Vivek Hari Sridhar – ready to present his work on collective behaviour!

December-January often offers us surprise visitors – usually scientists visiting home during winter break or those attending conferences/workshops in Bengaluru area. This time too, we were lucky to host four visitors in December!

Two faculty from the Physics department of MIT — Jeff Gore and Nikta Fakhri paid a surprise visit to the lab. They were teaching at the ICTS-ICTP Winter School on quantiative biology. We had great fun discussing our work with them. They also gave brief talks at Physics department, which was very exciting and inspiring.

Two PhD students from Iain Couzin’s lab from the Department of Collective Behaviour at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Konstanz visited our department/lab.

Vivek Hari Sridhar, who visited us last year as well, gave a talk in our lab on his thesis plans on geometry of decision making with some very cool preliminary results.

Hemal Naik gave a talk in the department introducing the mind-blowing new animal tracking system ICARUS developed by Martin Wikelski and his team.

Thanks guys for stopping in our lab! Do visit us again.

Priya Iyer has been awarded DST grant to pursue her postdoctoral work

Congratulations to Priya Iyer, who has been awarded DST Women Scientist grant to pursue her postdoctoral research work. The grant is for three years, and is likely to start from Jan 2018. Priya did her integrated MSc in Mathematics from IIT Kanpur, PhD in Biology from Stanford, and spent some time as a fellow at IISER Pune.

Priya has wide range of interests, from studying animals in the wild to building theoretical models to education. We are delighted that she will work in our lab.

Winter travel and conferences

A bunch of us are traveling for collaborations and conferences this winter.

Sumithra Sankaran and Krishnapriya Tamma are currently in France for several weeks to continue to our collaboration with Sonia Kefi and her lab at Montpellier, France. This is the last trip under our grant from Indo-French Centre for Applied Mathematics.

Sumithra Sankaran, Krishnapriya Tamma and Sabiha Majumder will be presenting their research work at the annual meeting of British Ecological Society 2017 at Ghent, Belgium, from 11th December to 15th December.

Myself, Sabiha Majumder, Priya Iyer and Jitesh Jhawar presented out work at a conference at IIT-Guwahati on Complex Dynamical Systems and Applications (CDSA). IIT-Guwahati is such an amazing campus and weather is fantastic. We must visit more frequently!

Collective behaviour meeting in Germany

I am just returning from an highly stimulating workshop/conference on “Multi scale analysis and modeling of collective migration in biological systems”, Bielefeld, Germany, Oct 2017. 

One day of the conference was on collective behaviour in organismal biology. There were great talks on quantifying interactions in fish and sheep, intermittent behaviour in sheep, collective feeding in C elegans, models of swarming bees, criticality in schooling systems, etc. I gave a talk on our recent (unpublished) work on fish schooling by Amith-Kumar and Jitesh Jhawar followed by my previous work on evolutionary models of collective migration, including Jaideep’s recent work on cooperation.

It was great to catch up with Pawel Romanczuk (with whom I collaborated on locust cannibalism) and Guy Theraulaz (a leader in the field of collective behaviour). There were not too many people I knew previously. So it was nice to many others whose papers I had read but not never met.

Guy shared his fond memories of his visit to Bengaluru in 1990 when he attended International meeting on social insects. Guy has been encouraging me to organise a meeting on collective behaviour in Bangalore.  Should I 🙂 ?