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© David Bierbach

Just be Yourself! How Individual Differences Shape Collective Behavior

Cluster of Excellence – Science of Intelligence | David Bierbach

Using a robotic fish to understand collective behavior.

Do genetically identical individuals living in the same environment develop identical behaviors? And what role does individuality play in shaping the collective behavior of a flock of birds or a school of fish?

In this talk, David Bierbach will present results from fascinating experiments with a clonal fish, the Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa), to test whether near-identical rearing conditions can dampen individual differences in behavior. In sharp contrast to predictions, researchers found substantial individual variation in behavior among genetically identical individuals raised under highly standardized environments.

But how does this individuality allow swarms, herds and shoals of animals to perform highly coordinated collective behaviors like synchronized movements or rapid consensus decision-making?Using a robotic fish, Bierbach and his team also explored the effects of individual differences in behavior on collective movement, migration and the emergence of group-specific behavioral patterns, and showed that individual behavior plays a crucial role in shaping collective patterns, with some animal personalities having greater impact on the group’s performance than others.



This event can be attended digitally via livestream or in-person with a limited on-site audience at the Museum of Natural History.

Livestream: Shortly before the event begins, the stream will be made available on this site. Add the event to your favourites and receive a reminder via email.

On-Site: If you would like to attend the event on-site, please book your spot via e-mail to: communication@scioi.de.

Due to the current situation, we are required to ask for the contact information of each person entering the Museum of Natural History in accordance with the Protection Against Infection Act. We therefore require the following data from all persons who register: First name, last name, address, telephone number and email address.

On-site the protective and hygienic measures of the Museum of Natural History apply. The so-called 3G rule (for “geimpft, genesen oder getestet“, i.e. “vaccinated, recovered or tested”) will be applied: Anyone who is not fully vaccinated or is not considered recovered will be required to provide a recent negative Covid-19 test. Visiting the event is permitted with a medical face mask only.

The registration data will be stored by SCIoI for the purpose of organizing the event as well as for any subsequent contact follow-up and will also be shared with the organizers of Berlin Science Week and the Museum of Natural History for this purpose.

We will take pictures and videos on the Campus on 5/6 November, which we will use for documentation and communication purposes, and will livestream the events on our website. If you do not agree, please send your denial to via email to info@berlinscienceweek.com prior to the Campus. We also refer to our data protection regulation.

David Bierbach

Science of Intelligence

David Bierbach is a biologist working on topics that range from individual differences to large-scale collective behaviors. He integrates field-based studies with analytical and experimental approaches in the laboratory. Through his highly interdisciplinary work, he has developed several experimental techniques to study animal behavior in the most standardized ways, from video playbacks and computer animations to the use of bio-mimetic robots. His main research objectives are tropical freshwater fish like clonal mollies (Poecilia formosa), guppies (P. reticulata) or sulfur mollies (P. sulphuraria).

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About the Venue
Berlin Science Week Campus – Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
Invalidenstraße 43
Berlin, Berlin 10115 Germany
(030) 8891408591

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