Our research is/has been funded by: ASAB, AXA Research Fund, BBSRC, GCRF, NERC, Office of Naval Research Global, The Centre for Ecology and Evolution (London), The Leverhulme Trust, The Royal Society, The Royal Veterinary College (London), and Swansea University.
Individuals interact. We use direct observations and high-resolution tracking of individuals, combined with mathematical simulations or agent-based models, to study the mechanisms, adaptive value, and flexibility of social behaviour. We study lots of different social species, and two of our favourites are stickleback fish (in the lab), and chacma baboons (wild populations in Namibia and South Africa). Testing and refining methodological and analytical approaches is also important to this work. For a summary of the approach we take, see King et al. (2018).
Phenotypic differences among individuals drives the behaviour, structure, and functioning of animal groups. Our aim is to understand this individual heterogeneity and its social, ecological, and evolutionary consequences. We also use our empirical data to engineer better performing artificial swarm systems, see our ONR Global funded 2G-SWARM project. For a review of this topic, see Jolles et al. (2019).
We investigate how animal behaviour is organised in space and time. Much of our work in this area has a strong applied theme. For example, we have developed tools for assessing the scale and nature of N pollution arising from sheep-grazed pastures, shown that ocean acidification does not cause behavioural alterations in fish, and investigated the causes and consequences of baboons foraging in urban and agricultural landscapes in South Africa.
Groups of animals need to make collective decisions about what to do and when to do it, if they are to remain as a cohesive group. We study the various ways such group decisions can be made and are particularly interested in how leadership has evolved as a fundamental means to solve coordination problems and resolve within-group conflict of interest. We have studied leadership and group decisions in fish, sheep, goats, African wild dogs, baboons, and humans. For a short review on leadership, see King et al. (2009).