Does it add up? Can maths explain collective animal behaviour?

Can maths be used to understand how animals behave in groups? What can equations tell us about flocks of sheep or crowds of people?

Dr Francesco Ginelli, Senior Lecturer in Physics at the University of Aberdeen will answer this question at the second Café Scientifique event of 2016. 

Dr Ginelli uses applied mathematics to research complex and dynamical systems in order to learn how this might apply to the movement of sheep or other grazing animals, and also how the behaviour of one individual could trigger a collective response by the group.

Dr Ginelli said: “From bird flocks to sheep grazing, social animals show remarkable ability in coordinating group activity, often giving rise to spectacular displays.  I will describe how we can use maths to help us understand the complex dynamical systems.

“Cooperative behaviour in social groups is a very important issue in evolutionary biology. Our research may eventually help us to understand the behaviour of other groups of animals - including humans - in a stressful group situation.”

The ‘Collective animal behaviour’ event is part of the popular Café Scientifique discussion series and will be held at Waterstones, Union Bridge from 7pm on Wednesday 24 February.  More details about Café Scientifique can be found at

These free events, led by the Public Engagement with Research Unit at The University of Aberdeen, provide a chance for the public to join informal discussions with leading figures in medicine and biosciences.