Harvard University COVID-19 updates

Resources Directory
Postdoctoral Fellow, MCB

Souvik Mandal

Postdoctoral Fellow, MCB

Research

DECIPHERING BEHAVIORAL STRATEGIES OF INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE DECISION-MAKING: OLFACTORY NAVIGATION & COOPERATION IN ANTS

Growing up surrounded by several domestic and wild animals on a rural farm in India (where electricity used to be a luxury), I got hooked on animal behavior early on in my life – a free, never-ending source of amazement. My interest in animal behavior led me to get my undergraduate and master’s degrees in zoology, and eventually my Ph.D. in animal behavior.

While my broad interest lies in the behavior of social animals in general, my main research interests are centered around the basic rules and evolutionary basis of decision-making on an individual and collective level. For understanding the process of continuous decision-making on the individual level, I study navigation, foraging, searching, and homing behavior in social insects; currently, I am exploring how ants find food (and back home) using olfactory cues. In parallel, I am also studying the “minimal rules” of cooperation in ants, collaborating with physicists and robotics engineers.

While I primarily study animals in the field, I also do lab studies for fine-controlled experiments. As my research tools, I rely on classical methods like qualitative and quantitative manual observation, as well as cutting-edge automation tools like computer vision, and artificial intelligence. In the future, I want to explore more deeply the foraging, searching, and cooperation strategies used by different social insects evolved in different ecological niches, develop more automated tools to study behavior, understand the quantitative rules of behavior, and expand my study to other social animals, especially dogs.