Research Projects

Visualising fish swarms

Using data collected by Iain Couzin from real fish, Juri Buchmueller and Daniel Keim have developed software that allows users to explore the movement of 151 fish in a swarm over the course of a few minutes.

Use the tool

Tracking football players

Manuel Stein, Daniel Keim, Michael Grossniklaus and Iain Couzin are developing a tool to automatically annotate player movement in a football game.

See videos demonstrating how their system works for Free Spaces, Interaction Spaces and Pass Alternatives. Read the blog post by David Sumptor on the system.

Read Directors Cut: Analysis and Annotation of Soccer Matches

Flying with storks

Data from a tagged population of storks is brought vividly to life through immersive analytics. A large team, led by Falk Schreiber and Martin Wikelski, are using 3D screens and head mounted displays to depict geographical, environmental, and movement data in immersive format.

Watch a video demonstration of the system

Solving the puzzle of colony defence

Honeybees are known to aggressively defend their colony, but this behaviour presents an intriguing paradox. A honeybee’s most efficient form of defence is to sting, which leads to unavoidable death by abdominal damage. So how do bees achieve the balance of defending their colony without sacrificing too much of their workforce? An interdisciplinary team, led by Morgane Nouvian, Giovanni Galizia, and Tatjana Petrov, is proposing that to reach this balance, each individual integrates information about its social context when making the decision to engage or not into defence. Combining ideas from collective behaviour, neuroscience, and computer science, their work will provide a comprehensive view of the mechanisms underlying social regulation of defensiveness in bees.

Monitoring health in wild birds

Wild animals are reservoirs and vectors of many infectious diseases. To better predict the spread of zoonotic diseases in the wild, a team led by Robert Kraus, Martin Wikelski, and Falk Schreiber are taking a multidisciplinary approach that combines genetics, physiology and movement analysis. The aim is to determine if simply studying the movement patterns of birds can provide evidence for infections. A preliminary study in captive mallard ducks has shown that movement data captured with bio-loggers combined with sophisticated analyses provide a promising method to remotely detect and monitor disease outbreaks. The team has recently partnered with Marcus Groettrup to confirm this result in wild populations. By conducting immunological challenges in wild mallards, they hope to understand the consequence of disease on collective behaviour in the wild—and ultimately pave the way to establishing health monitoring in wild bird populations using remote bio-logging technologies.

See visual analysis tool showing gene expression across a whole pathway

Tracking fish in the wild

In a collaboration on camera-based tracking used in the field, Oliver Deussen and Alex Jordan have developed a tool to track fish reliably in complex environments. This will allow the study of collective behaviour of fish schools in the wild.

Early warning detection system for natural disasters

Tagged goats from Mount Etna. Photo courtesy of MaxCine

Anecdotal reports of animals sensing natural disasters have occurred throughout history. But robust empirical evidence supporting these reports is still lacking. In an interdisciplinary effort between biologists and mathematicians, Professor Martin Wikelski and Professor Winfried Pohlmeier are testing if animals can be used as a biological early-warning system for disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.Using modern tracking technology (soon including the ICARUS Initiative), Prof Wikelski is continually monitoring animals before, during, and after disasters—thus allowing rigorous comparison of before-and-after-disaster behaviour that was previously not possible. The project has begun tracking animals in high-risk areas, including goats and sheep near Mt Etna, the most active volcano in Europe, elephants and water buffalo in Banda Aceh, which was the location of the devastating 2004 tsunami, and in the Italian Appenine where huge areas were destroyed during the October 2017 earthquake. The results will provide the empirical support for whether animal behaviour can help mitigate the damage of natural disasters.

Read their results from studying domestic animals during M6.6 earthquake in Italy in 2016