Among other benefits, the capacity for groups to exhibit collective intelligence is an often cited advantage of group living. Despite the importance of collective sensing to the ecology of many social species and the value to bio-inspired technological applications, how grouping enhances sensing capabilities in real animal groups remains unknown. In collaboration with Dr. Colin Torney I am investigating how a group-level awareness of, and response to, environmental gradients can emerge from social interactions among individuals exhibiting simple non-directional responses to their environment such as signaling or kinesis.
Dispersal is a fundamental process in ecology. It is a process that allows organisms to exploit environmental variation and to colonize new areas. It also provides a mechanism that keeps distant populations genetically in touch, deeply affecting specialization and adaptation. Much previous work has focused on how dispersal may interrupt local adaptation through gene flow, and how local adaptation can reduce dispersal, however, few studies address the interplay between these two phenomena. Using simulations I am working to understand the relationship between dispersal and local adaptation and the role of collective behaviour on these drivers of ecological patterns.