Collective behaviour symposium during the visit of Guy Theraulaz

During the visir of Guy Theraylaz, our lab members (Pritha, Jitesh, Akanksha) and collaborator Dr Danny Raj organized an interdisciplinary one-day symposium titled Collective behaviour at CES, IISc. Here is the full schedule:

Symposium_Poster_Final (1)

Around 10 faculty members from IISc and other institutions gave presentations. Prof Theraulaz also gave a fascinating special seminar at the Collective behaviour symposium on self-organized nest architecture.

There was also a very lively poster session where a number of students presented their work.

The symposium was very well attended, including two IT folks who saw the notice on Twitter and joined the entire day of talks!


Workshop at Valparai with Guy Theraulaz

During the visit of Prof Theraulaz, we organized an intense workshop on collective behaviour at Valparai, Tamil Nadu from 08.09.2019 to 10.09.2019.

Many students working on collective behaviour from our lab and our collaborator Dr Danny Raj attended the workshop. The workshop focused on the discussion of existing research in the field of collective behaviour and potential future advances in the same.

The team also did a number of field visits to observe wildlife, assisted by extraordinary scientists and staff from Nature Conservation Foundation.


Collective behaviour workshop and symposium during the visit of Guy Theraulaz

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Guy Theraulaz visited CES and our lab as Infosys Chair Professor.

During the visit, the lab members of Dr Vishwesha Guttal organized an interdisciplinary one-day symposium titled Collective behaviour.  Around 10 faculty members from IISc and other institutions gave presentations. Prof Theraulaz also gave a fascinating special seminar at the Collective behaviour symposium on self-organized nest architecture.

Symposium_Poster_Final (1)

In addition, Prof Theraulaz attended a workshop on collective behaviour was organized by Dr Vishwesha Guttal at Valparai, Tamil Nadu from 08.09.2019 to 10.09.2019.  Many students working on collective behaviour from our lab attended the workshop. We discussed the state of research in the field of collective behaviour and potential future advances in the same. The team also did a number of field visits to observe wildlife, assisted by superb staff and volunteers from Nature Conservation Foundation.

Apart from faculty members at CES, Prof Theraulaz held a whole range of discussions with faculty members spread across the Institute as well as neighbouring institutions such as NCBS and ICTS. Some faculty members he met included: Prof Ashish Verma (Civil engineering), Prof Renee Borges (CES), Prof Rohini Balakrishnan (CES), Prof Sanjay Sane (NCBS), Prof Axel Brockmann (NCBS), Dr Danny Raj (Chemical engineering), etc.

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-18 at 5.21.29 PM (1)


Visit by Colin Torney and Mikolaj Kundegorski to our lab

In the last week of May this year, Dr Colin Torney (Dept of Math, University of Glasgow) and his student Mikolaj Kundegorski (Miks) visited our lab to continue our collaboration on studying blackbuck collective behaviour with Akanksha. We had a really productive week of implementing AI based image processing to our datasets. Their visit was funded by UGC-UKIERI grant.

WhatsApp Image 2019-08-25 at 10.31.25 AM.jpeg

Miks (second from left) and Colin (third) feasting on a fruit lunch with our lab members!


Thale-Harate’ podcast with Pavan Srinath and Ganesh Chakravarthi in Kananda (ಕನ್ನಡ)

Listen to my ‘Thale-Harate’ podcast with Pavan Srinath and Ganesh Chakravarthi in Kananda (ಕನ್ನಡ): 

https://ivmpodcasts.com/harate-kannada-podcast-episode-list/2019/5/8/ep-21-the-life-of-an-ecology-professor

On topics ecology, physics, some of my research work and on doing science in India.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation during recording, and I hope you too! Any feedback welcome.

Since its an hour and a half long, here is roughly how the topics of discussions go:

0 – 33 minutes: On ecology, how principles and methods of physics/mathematics can be useful. Includes examples from my own research work on ecosystem collapse and collective animal movement.

33 – 55 minutes: How does research actually happen? Did you have eureka-moments? What is the life of a processor and scientist like at work?

55 mins to 1:25 hrs: On Indian science and global competitiveness.


Sumithra Sankaran defends her PhD thesis!!!

I am super delighted to share this — somewhat belated — news that Sumithra Sankaran has defended her PhD thesis on 7th December 2018. Sumithra’s thesis was on understanding how local interactions, spatial patterns and ecosystem stability are related. Needless to say, Sumithra gave a fabulous presentation and the examiners (including external examiner Prof Partha Sarathi Dutta from IIT Ropar, Department of Mathematics) were super impressed.

It is worth noting – especially for prospective students to our lab – that Sumithra was formally trained in zoology and wildlife biology. Because of her exceptional interest in theory, she did a thesis in theoretical ecology involving fairly involved mathematical calculations, e.g., mean-field models, stochastic differential equations and their analyses via Fokker-Planck equations, cellular automata models. Finally, testing her predictions of theory with empirical data – which required another suite of skills in analysing remotely-sensed data, statistics, and making sense of results in light of theory!

Do check some of her papers here, here, here and here. There are two more being prepared.

Congratulations to Sumithra – its been so much fun collaboratingworking with you – which I hope we will continue!

Sumithra Sankaran showing a slide with spatially explicit model of patch dynamics.


New paper by Jaideep Joshi: Demographic noise and cost of greenbeard can facilitate greenbeard cooperation

We are delighted to announce a new paper from the lab!

Jaideep Joshi and Vishwesha Guttal, 2018, Demographic noise and cost of greenbeard can facilitate greenbeard cooperation, Evolution, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.13615

This is the second paper of our former PhD student Jaideep Joshi. Fantastic work, involving some hard-core analytical and simulational work to address an interesting problem on the evolution of greenbeard cooperation.

Congratulations to Jaideep!

While you are here, you must also check the previous paper of Jaideep on how mobility promotes cooperation, published last year in Plos Computational Biology.

 


Advise: On requesting recommendation letters

Many students ask me to write recommendation letters for a variety of purposes, like internship abroad, summer school and most importantly – graduate schools. It’s an important part of our job as academics to encourage younger and aspiring students. Therefore, in general, I am happy to write supporting letters if I know you ‘sufficiently well’.

Here are some general tips to follow when you request me (or more generally it may apply to others whom you approach) to send recommendation letters – this information will help me to write better-supporting letters.

  • First, do write a short note requesting if the person you think is suitable to write a letter is willing to do so. When you do so, state the purpose of your application, attach your cv and mention the deadline.
  • In general, write at least a few weeks ahead of the deadline and clearly state what is the deadline. If the deadline is very short – you can still write, but be aware that many mentors may decline even if they feel you are a fantastic candidate.

Once I have agreed to send you the letter:

  • If it’s a graduate school application season, send a list of university, department, their respective deadlines, the program (PhD vs Masters), etc all in a single email. I usually request students to create a google spreadsheet and share all the relevant information via a (editable) link, so that it can be easily updated by both of us.
  • Send an updated CV every time you ask for a letter – even if I had sent a letter last year for a similar purpose. I would like to know how your cv has improved since last time, so that any modifications to the letter can be done.
  • Provide as much information on what is the recommendation for. Add all relevant information about the application. For example, if you wrote a proposal or statement of interest that is not confidential – share it with me. Share any pdf/link to details of what the application is asking (some applications ask for very specific questions, its very useful for us to know those). Sometimes, some advertisements are aimed for specific candidates with a certain background (for ex: this conf is aimed for physicists interested in biology, or vice versa). Do point out them to me. A generic letter won’t help the selection to committee decide whether you are suitable.
  • A short note on any specific points that you would like me to highlight about you. It could be about your project/work done with me, about your grades, a new publication/work of yours that I am unaware of, or anything that you think will help your application. If you are applying to unusual programs (e.g. Masters in conservation biology but your background is in mathematics), tell me reasons for the same. Such information is very important and useful for me to write a good supporting letter.
  • Do not hesitate to remind me whether I have submitted the letter. Check the status at least a week, and a few days before, the deadline.
Some places (in Europe I think) as for recommendation letters to be sent via student herself/himself. As a general rule it’s not a good idea to have the letters sent via your own application; I think it actually weakens it (certainly in the way we write, and how they read). Always ask if there is a way professor can send it directly to them.
Finally, let me know the outcome of your application because I am curious to know, and am also interested in making sure you succeed. Moreover, it’s a basic courtesy to inform the outcome (even if it is negative) to someone has invested time in writing a letter of recommendation. A negative outcome may also help your referee to improve the letter the next time you ask him/her.  Finally, all the best!!! 

New paper: 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.

Active-Passive-CollBeh-Simulations

(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.


We have been awarded an SERB grant to study collective behaviour

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).