Have you ever wondered about how the coordinated blinking of fire flies, the synchronized movement of flocks of birds or schools of fish or the exploration pattern of roots in the soil occur? These are all examples of collective behaviors, a new and exciting field of biology. Collective behavior can be found in all domains – animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses. More surprisingly, collective behaviors occur on all scales of living systems. Indeed, synchronous behaviors extend from the organism to the tissue to the cell to the molecule, i.e., from movements of primate troops and bird flocks, to the synchronized growth of plant roots, to coordinated swarming of bacterial cells, to the circadian ticking of molecular clocks. Even viral attacks are carried out as collectives. Ironically, research on collective behaviors is not coordinated. Disparate scientific groups work on these phenomena in many disciplines (evolution, biology, physics, engineering, etc.). While the problems being pursued have exciting overlap, interaction between groups has been sparse.
A new Gordon Research Conference beginning on June 6, 2021 is designed to promote this new inter-disciplinary field. Research outcomes include the establishment of transdisciplinary collaborations between scientists, along with the sharing of different approaches and technologies, in a coordinated effort to transform investigations of collective behavior. Goals are to discover unifying principles across scales and organisms and to anticipate how the findings, both experimental and theoretical, can be used in future experimentation, computation, robotics, and industrial, medical, and policy applications. Another outcome will be to learn and how collective behavior emerges from the behavior of individual components, such as individuals or cells or molecules.
Some of the speakers include professors Deborah Gordon at Stanford, Bonnie Bassler at Princeton, Radhika Nagpal at Harvard, Nancy Lynch at MIT, Bill Bentley at University of Maryland, and Ari Strandburg-Peshkin at University of Konstanz.
The conference will consist of nine sessions, on the topics listed below. The conference chair is currently developing their preliminary program, which will include the names of the invited speakers and discussion leaders for each of these sessions. The preliminary program will be available by September 6, 2020. Please check back for updates.
- Insect Societies: The Roots of Collective Behavior
- Quorum Sensing
- Modeling Collective Behavior
- Synthetic Collective Behavior
- Cell-to-Cell Interactions
- Finding Chemical Signals
- Collective Behavior of Biological Oscillators
- Flocks, Schools and Armies
- Collective Decision Making