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 I gave a talk on our recent (unpublished) work on fish schooling by Amith-Kumar and Jitesh Jhawar followed by my previous work on evolutionary models of collective migration, including Jaideep’s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 🙂 ?
As I mentioned in the previous post, our postdoc is attending Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Portland this week. In addition, our lab had presence in various other international conferences and workshops this summer.
Four PhD students from our lab presented their work at the conference “Mathematical models in ecology and evolution” (MMEE) held at London in July 2017.
- Jaideep Joshi, final year student who has already submitted his thesis, presented his work on “Demographic noise and the evolution of tag-based cooperation”.
- Sumithra Sankaran, finishing her 4th year of PhD, presented her work on “Demographic noise promotes bistability in ecosystems”
- Jitesh Jhawar, finishing his 3rd year of PhD, presented his work on “Role of stochasticity in the dynamics of fish schools”
- Aakanksha Rathore, finishing her 2nd year of PhD, presented her work on “Spatial dynamics of Blackbuck herds”
Three of the students, Sumithra, Jitesh and Aakanksha, also attended BES organised one day symposium on movement ecology in London.
After the conference, Aakanksha went to visit Dr Colin Torney at University of Glasgow.
Jaideep went on to Puerto Rico to attend a workshop on tropical forest ecology.
Student trips were supported by funds from Indian Institute of Science (MHRD) and a grant from Royal society to visit Dr Torney’s lab.
We are delighted that we have been awarded an extramural research grant from Science and Engineering Research Board, Govt of India, to a project titled “Inferring nonlinear and stochastic dynamics of flocking systems from real data”.
We will get around Rs 36 lakhs plus overheads over a period of three years. The grant will support conducting experiments using fish schools and to use tools from physics to infer nonlinear dynamics of schooling fish.
I would like to thank our former project assistant Amith Kumar and the PhD student Jitesh Jhawar for offering immense help in the process of this grant writing and application.
This is funded by the Physical Sciences panel of SERB. It is interesting to note that two of our other grants to study collective behaviour too are funded by non-biology panels — one of them an Applied Mathematics section of CSIR and the other a Mathematics section of SERB (via Mathbio program at IISc).
We are delighted that we have been awarded an extramural research grant from Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, Govt of India, to a project titled “A mathematical and computational model to investigate coevolutionary dynamics of cooperation in particle based models”.
The grant covers a small equipment (laptop) and salary for postdoc for two years. This grant is given by the (Applied) Mathematics section of the CSIR extramural grants.
We are delighted that Jaideep Joshi, a third year PhD student in our lab, has been selected for Young Scientists Summer Program, at IIASA, Austria. This is a highly competitive and prestigious summer program for those working in theoretical ecology and evolution. He will be working on a research project in collaboration with Dr Ulf Dieckmann and Dr. Ack Brannstrom. All the best to Jaideep!
Some updates on recent travel:
Visit to Delhi in March: I visited Delhi University and Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi in the month of March for about a week (supported by visitor’s program of NNMCB). I gave talks on abrupt ecological transitions in both places. At Delhi University (dept of physics), I had lots of stimulating discussions with Sanjay Jain, his students and collaborators. Sanjay Jain has done some fascinating work on networks and its application to biological systems.
Likewise, at IIIT Delhi, I met Sachit Butail (although briefly since I spent only a day there and was sick for most part of my stay) who has done very interesting work on collective behaviour.
Visit to Germany to attend an international workshop and conference: I am currently in Germany (Max Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden) attending a stimulating conference on “criticality in biology: a critical perspective“. What is criticality, how do we measure criticality in biology, what are it’s biological functions, etc are some of the topics on which there have been a number of talks and discussions in the context of neuroscience and ecology. Heading back after meeting a number of new folks and new ideas.
Last but not the least, I also met Iain Couzin, my former postdoc adviser, who has recently moved to Konstanz, Germany to set up a new Max Planck Department on Collective Behaviour. It was fantastic to catch up with him. We also discussed an ongoing manuscript that we are writing together with Jaideep Joshi (my student) and Simon Levin.
I would be writing a series for Resonance on some aspects of theoretical ecology, and from the perspective of a physicist turned ecologist!
The first of the series came out two months ago. I copy paste the abstract here, and here is the link to the pdf if you want to read it in full! Do leave a comment or suggest me how you liked the article and what would you like to cover in the series.
“Common people and even scientists think of ecology as a discipline that exclusively studies wildlife and topics related to environmental pollution. My friends both within and outside the scientific community are often baffled when they hear that I am a physicist doing research in ecology. The aim of this series of articles is to emphasize the less known fact that theory and mathematics have been central to ecology since the inception of this relatively young scientific field. In this first article, I will talk about the following three points. First, I will discuss how the emphasis of the basic science of ecology is much broader than its applied aspects involving the conservation of natural ecosystems. Second, I will discuss a fundamental parallel between statistical physics and ecology that arises because both disciplines emphasize macroscopic systems (e.g., magnetic materials in physics or flocks of birds in ecology) as collectives of interacting units that are more than the sum of their constituents. What makes them fascinating is that interactions at small scales typically give rise to unexpected properties at larger scales. Finally, I will discuss how ecology offers a new and rich set of challenges to mathematically trained scientists because of variations among biological organisms and the role of natural selection in shaping ecological systems, both of which have no parallels in the physical sciences.”