I am a researcher in the Department of Collective Behavior at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany. I have multiple collaborative projects where my role is leading the modeling and analysis of data, and applying simulations and quantitative methods to understand animal behavior. These include, example, how animal groups process information, adapt to their environment, and perform tasks together to function as a group.
Current research projects
Individual and long-term analysis of honey bee behavior
We tagged and tracked the lifetime behavior of 13,000+ honeybees using the Beesbook barcode tracking system, to understand how bees differ in their lifetime behavioral patterns, how male reproductive drones synchronize behavior in the nest, and how the colony responds to environmental perturbations such as heat stress. With the labs of Michael Smith, Iain Couzin, and Tim Landgraf.
Foraging behavior from individual to collective
We used techniques from neuroscience to model foraging behavior, with a goal of bridging concepts between disciplines.
Extensions consider optimal strategies and exchange of information in social foraging groups. Current work is analyzing social behavior of rats and designing experiments using rats and locusts. With Ahmed El Hady and Zachary Kilpatrick
Collective motion of C. elegans nematode worms
Different mutants of the model organism C. elegans show very different collective behavior patterns. We are using tracking and quantitative methods to describe these different patterns, and simulations to represent different mutants as well as mixed groups of worms. With Serena Ding and Narcís Font Massot. (image from Ding et al 2019)
Completed research projects
Comparing collective systems
As part of an interdisciplinary project with Medhavi Vishwakarma and Michael Smith, we asked how different collective systems — such as honey bees and epithelial cells — coordinate their behavior to function as a group, and developed a conceptual framework that can be used to compare different collective systems.
Genetic control of collective behavior in zebrafish
Working with Mark Fishman, we analyzed data of a large-scale genetic screen for social behavior of zebrafish. By comparing 90 different genetic mutants plus wild type fish, we identified mutant lines that differ in behavior.
Collective detection in animal groups
We used computer vision techniques to analyze data of golden shiner fish and formulated a model to ask how collective detection depends on the properties of an animal group .
Parasitism and motion of stickleback fish
With Jolle Jolles, I used motion modeling to understand how parasites affect the pair-swimming motion of stickleback fish, to show that a passive mechanism – speed differences – can explain dominant leader-follower motion trends.
Motion and foraging behavior of desert harvester ants
Electroactive polymers and rubber elasticity
In my PhD work with Nakhiah Goulbourne, I developed models of electroactive polymers and rubber elasticity, and used molecular dynamics simulations to examine how microscopic configurations lead to macroscopic material properties.
Other than research, I’m involved with the MPI-PostdocNet working group on Equity and Diversity (see our seminar series), and was a co-organizer for TEDxKonstanz.
Outside of work, you’ll find me hiking, mountain biking, or climbing, or playing drums or guitar with our band Zed13.
You can reach me at jdavidson (at) ab.mpg.de