2011–2013 | ongoing
Early in my PhD, I conducted a series of experiments to examine how groups of fish navigate complex environments, using schools of Golden Shiners.
Groups of fish were trained to the general location of a food reward in an empty tank, then I inserted a complex labyrinth into the tank, so they needed to explore to find a path to the reward. I tested different group sizes and compositions to see which performed best.
I hope to continue this work in the future, expanding on these preliminary experiments along with theoretical work using an approach combining deep multi-agent reinforcement learning and game theory to assess when schools stay together, and under what conditions individuals tend to split off, either alone or in subgroups. I am curious to examine the potential role of free riders in the fission/fusion dynamics seen in these experiments, and whether there are consistent strategies that emerge within groups in terms of exploration and exploitation (following).
A consistent strategy of following the crowd could allow some individuals to devote their attention to close observation of the environment, which may ultimately lead to their discovering novel routes, and their sudden departure from the group as they speed towards a (possible) reward. In addition to these questions regarding individual strategies and inter-group dynamics, I am also interested in analyzing this process of group exploration as a multi-agent form of Novelty Search, which may provide insights for the design of AI systems focused on collective search (either physical or virtual).