School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics

Collective Motion in Nature

Large aggregations of animals sometimes organise themselves into complex, moving patterns.

Striking examples of this are bird flocks (most spectacularly the aerial display of huge numbers of starlings at dusk), fish schools and midge swarms. Perhaps surprisingly, this complex behaviour at the group level can emerge from simple actions of the individual members.

Mathematical models show that a small set of rules, governing the interactions between individuals, can generate sophisticated, dynamic structures on large scales.  We are investigating some of the properties of this collective behaviour, using numerical models and comparison to observations.