prof. dr. C.K. (Charlotte) Hemelrijk



Research units:

Research interests

Research field: Self-organization in social systems

We are interested in all aspects of self-organisation in social systems. In our models we try to produce complex phenomena by self-organisation as a side-effect of interactions of individuals with their environment. At present our focus is on predatory attacks of schools of fish and flocks of birds and on social systems of birds and primates.

Research interests


Predatory attacks

Model of flocking starlingsA fundamental evolutionary question is whether and how the guidance strategy of birds of prey during aerial hunting has been shaped by natural selection. To answer this, we need to integrate mechanism and function in an evolutionary study (Evo-mecho approach). For this, we use a computational model within the framework of complexity science. Our aim is to:

1. Gain insight how evolution may have shaped the prey-targeting system depending on the prey’s biomechanics and behaviour,
2. elucidate the interplay between pursuit-evasion tactics, behavioural timing, biomechanics, flight control, prey-targeting and catch rate,
3. generate and verify predictions in real raptors in cooperation with the Oxford Animal Flight Group, UK.

Research interests


Collective escape by swarms

From the perspective of the prey, we aim to gain understanding about collective patterns of escape. In a combined modeling and empirical study in cooperation with University of Toulouse, France, we investigate the collective response of a school of fish when being attacked by a predator. Our aim is to:

1. Gain insight in the process of transmission of information about the predator,
2. elucidate how the different kinds of escape response relate to the strategy of the predator and the collective pattern of escape of prey, and
3. find out by what behavior the prey confuses the predator.

Research interests


Energetic advantages of schooling

Hydrodynamic model of a swimming mulletIn fish schools we study the hydrodynamic effects and energetic benefits of schooling.






Research interests


Social behavior in primates and corvids

In primates we are investigating the self-organisation of inter-sexual dominance. We develop new measures of dominance style.

In primates and corvids we investigate how behavioural rules that are cognitively unusually  simple result in complex patterns of social interaction. These complex patterns have usually been supposed to represent reconciliation, consolation and attribution of knowledge to others.

Research interests


Evolution at multiple scales

Using the example of mother-infant carrying we study evolution at multiple scales in computational models with the University of St Andrews, UK.

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