The University of Adelaide

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Contact details click  here

Contact telephone number (Australia)

+61 (0)8 8313 0951 (office)

Current position

Senior Lecturer at the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, on the Waite Campus, University of Adelaide.

I work on experimental and theoretical studies of insect collective behaviour and its application to agriculture and pest control. My team currently focuses on locust hopper bands, ant and termite colonies.

Current opportunities for Honours, PhD and Postdoc projects

Are you interested in studying locust mass movement using drones and cutting edge computer simulations? Would you like to bring a new light on the evolution of sociality and group living by studying collective foraging and nutrition in insects? I am building an Insect Collective Behaviour team at the University of Adelaide. Contact me for Honours, PhD and Postdoc opportunities.

Current research projects - Insect Collective Behaviour

Locust collective movement

To develop a better understanding of locust collective movement, we are combining lab and field experiments (which involve innovative techniques such as tracking individuals with a UAV) with computer simulations, which allow us to simulate up to millions of locusts using CUDA (parrallel computation on graphic cards). Ultimately, our goal is to build a model that will provide control operations with a better knowledge of band movement and trajectories so that improved methods such as barrier spraying can be optimized.

Collective nutrition in social insects

Nutrition is at the centre of most collective behaviour phenomena. In social insects such as ants and termites, foraging is handled by a sub-group of workers who not only have to fulfil their own nutritional requirements but also provide the rest of the colony with the nutrients they require. How does the information pertaining to the nutritional state of the colony flows and how do workers adapt their foraging strategies in order to achieve efficient communal nutrition? We will tackle these questions using a combination of lab experiments, tracking nutrients with fluorescent dies and individuals with RFID tags and computer vision, and computer simulations implementing the behaviour and nutritional processes as well as their evolution.

An Australian plague locust nymph

Where to find me:

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Room S116, Waite Buidling, Waite Campus
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005, Australia

My approach

Very often in Nature, phenomena appearing at a "macroscopic" level (e.g. a group of animals or a tissue) result from a multitude of interaction at a lower "microscopic" level  (e.g. a massive number of individual animals or cells) in a way that appears to be emergent and hard to predict. Linking these two levels, or more generally, bridging the gaps between scales is a topic that never ceases to fascinate me.

To achieve this goal, I use methods originated from the framework of self-organization and non-linear systems, where models are used to predict how local rules at the microscopic level result in patterns observed at the macroscopic level. Models are built using a thorough experimental quantification of behaviour and interactions at the individual or microscopic level - this is a bottom-up approach where the rules used in the model correspond, as much as possible, to mechanisms observed and measured empirically.

1 million locust simulation Example of simulation of a million of locusts moving in a 300x300m area over 6h. The simulation was run using the CUDA framework and 2 GTX 480 gpus, allowing us to run simulations of up to 15 millions of locusts while we could barely simulate several dozens of thousands previously.

Once the model is implemented, its predictions about the collective patterns, or macroscopic level, are compared to experimental results. Such cycles of studies involving both experiments and models have been successfully applied to social insect collective behaviour such as foraging and trail formation, nest construction, division of labour etc... They are increasingly used to study other animal collective behaviour such as fish schools, bird flocks, or locust marching bands and swarms (my current favourite model system), but have been and will more and more be used to study organization of large groups of microscopic organisms, cells or any complex phenomena observed in biological systems.

Why are these questions important? They're a key to understand how animal societies work, which is fascinating enough by itself in my opinion, but it's also opening new perspectives in understanding the evolution of sociality, and even more broadly, understanding how things organize at a level from the complex interactions happening at a lower level is  probably holding many exciting new insights about evolution of life in general.

Previous employement /education

- 2004: PhD - Doctorat de l'Universite Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France. Etude experimentale et modelisation de la morphogenese des reseaux de galeries chez la fourmi Messor sancta. (An experimental and theoretical study of the morphogenesis of tunnel networks in the ant Messor sancta).

- 2005: Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Oxford (with Steve Simpson, Iain Couzin and David Sumpter).

2006-2014: Postdoctoral researcher at the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney.

See also:

Steve Simpson
Audrey Dussutour
Greg Sword
Iain Couzin
David Sumpter

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics at USyd
The Unit of Social Ecology in Brussels

The Collective Behaviour Lab in Toulouse
The Complex Systems Lab in Barcelona

The Australian Plague Locust Commission
The FAO webpages about the desert locust

Julie-Anne Popple webpage

Part of the team after the first successful flight of the UAV at Marulan, March 2011
The tracking UAV and part of the collaborative team (SOBS, APLC, ACFR) at Marulan after the first successful test flights in March 2011

Selected publications

For a full and up to date list, please check:

Lihoreau, M., Gómez-Moracho, T., Pasquaretta, C., Costa, J., & Buhl, J. (2018). Social nutrition: an emerging field in insect science. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 28, 73-80.

Poissonnier, L., Lihoreau, M., Gomez-Moracho, T., Dussutour, A., & Buhl, J. (2018). A theoretical exploration of dietary collective medication in social insects. Journal of Insect Physiology, 106(1), 78-87.

Cullen, D., Cease, A., Latchininsky, A., Ayali, A., Berry, K., Buhl, J., ..., Rogers, S. (2017). From Molecules to Management: Mechanisms and Consequences of Locust Phase Polyphenism. Advances in Insect Physiology, 53, 167-285. doi:10.1016/bs.aiip.2017.06.002

Lihoreau M, Charleston MA, Senior AM, Clissold FJ, Raubenheimer D,  Simpson SJ , Buhl J. Collective foraging in spatially complex nutritional environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 372, 20160238-1-20160238-11. doi:10.1098/rstb.2016.0238

Lihoreau, M., Clarke, I. M., Buhl, J., Sumpter, D. J. T., & Simpson, S. J. (2016). Collective selection of food patches in Drosophila. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219(5), 668-675. doi:10.1242/jeb.127431

Senior, A. M., Lihoreau, M., Charleston, M. A., Buhl, J., Raubenheimer, D., & Simpson, S. J. (2016). Adaptive collective foraging in groups with conflicting nutritional needs. Royal Society Open Science, 3(4), 150638-1-150638-15. doi:10.1098/rsos.150638

Buhl, J., & Rogers, S. (2016). Mechanisms underpinning aggregation and collective movement by insect groups. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 15, 125-130. doi:10.1016/j.cois.2016.04.011

Senior, A., Charleston, M. A., Lihoreau, M., Buhl, J., Raubenheimer, D., & Simpson, S. J. (2015). Evolving nutritional strategies in the presence of competition: a geometric agent-based model. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(3), e1004111-1-e1004111-24. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004111

Romey, W. L., Smith, A. L., & Buhl, J. (2015). Flash expansion and the repulsive herd. Animal Behaviour, 110, 171-178. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.09.017

Herbert-Read, J. E., Buhl, J., Hu, F., Ward, A. J., & Sumpter, D. J. (2015). Initiation and spread of escape waves within animal groups. Royal Society Open Science, 2(4), 1403550-1-140355-11. doi:10.1098/rsos.140355

Lihoreau, M., Buhl, J., Charleston, M. A., Sword, G. A., Raubenheimer, D., & Simpson, S. J. (2015). Nutritional ecology beyond the individual: a conceptual framework for integrating nutrition and social interactions. Ecology Letters, 18(3), 273-286. doi:10.1111/ele.12406

Lihoreau M., Buhl J., Charleston M., Sword G.A., Raubenheimer D., Simpson S.J (2014) Modelling nutrition across organizational levels: from individual to superorganisms. Journal of Insect Physiology, DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2014.03.004

Buhl J., Sword G.A., Simpson S.J. (2012) Using field data to test locust migratory band collective movement models. Interface Focus, 2:757-763

Cummings D. O., Buhl J., Lee R. W., Simpson S. J., Holmes S. P. (2012) Can estimates of niche
width and diet deal with isotopic variability across habitats: A case study in the marine
environment. PLOS One 7,e40539

Hansen M. J., Buhl J., Bazazi S., Simpson S. J., Sword G. A. (2011) Cannibalism in the lifeboat –
Collective movement in Australian plague locusts. Behavioral Ecology and SociobiologyDOI: 10.1007/s00265-011-1179-1

Buhl J., Sword G. A., Clissold F. J., Simpson S. J. (2011) Group structure in locust migratory bands. Behavioral Ecology And Sociobiology, 65:265-273

Escudero C., Yates, C.A., Buhl J., Couzin I. D., Erban R., Kevrekidis I. G., Maini P.K. (2010) Ergodic Directional Switching in Mobile Insect Groups. Physical Review E, 82,011926

Yates, C.A., Erban R., Escudero C., Couzin I. D., Buhl J., Kevrekidis I. G., Maini P.K., Sumpter D. J. (2009) Inherent noise can facilitate coherence in collective swarm motion. PNAS, 106:5464-5469

Buhl J., Hicks K., Miller E. R., Persley S., Alinvi O., Sumpter D. J. (2009) Shape and efficiency of wood ant foraging networks. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63:451-460

Sumpter D. J., Buhl J., Biro D., Couzin I. D. (2008) Information transfer in moving animal groups. Theory in Biosciences, 127:177-186

Bazazi S., Buhl J., Hale J. J., Anstey M. L., Sword G. A., Simpson S. J., Couzin I. D. (2008) Collective Motion and Cannibalism in Locust Migratory Bands. Current Biology, 18:735-739ARTICLE

Buhl J., Gautrais J., Deneubourg, J.L., Kuntz P., Theraulaz. (2006) The growth and form of tunnelling            networks in ants. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 243, 287-298. PDF

Buhl, J., Sumpter, D.J., Couzin, I.D., Hale, J., Despland, E, Miller, E & Simpson, S.J. (2006) From disorder to order in marching locusts. Science, 312, 1402.

Perspective from Daniel Grunbaum
Highlight in Nature

Buhl J., Gautrais J., Reeves N., Sole R.V., Valverde S., Kuntz P., Theraulaz G. (2006) Topological patterns in street networks of self-organized urban settlements. European Physical Journal B, 49, 513-522.PDF

Buhl J., Deneubourg J.L., Grimal A. and Theraulaz G. (2005) Self-organized digging activity in ant colonies. Behavioral Sociobiology and Ecology. 58, 9-17.ARTICLE

Buhl J., Gautrais J., Sole R.V., Kuntz P., Valverde S., Deneubourg J.L., Theraulaz G. (2004) Efficiency and robustness in ant networks of galleries. European Physical Journal B, 42, 123-129.PDF

Buhl J., Gautrais J., Deneubourg J.L. and Theraulaz G. (2004) Nest excavation in ants: group size effects on the size and structure of tunneling networks. Naturwissenschaften, 92:602-606

Buhl J., Deneubourg J.L., Theraulaz G. (2002) Self-Organized Networks of Galleries in the Ant Messor Sancta, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2463:163-175

Computer tracking

A locust equipped with a reflective tag for aerial tracking

Right: Laboratory exporimental set-up allowing us to study locust marching in controlled conditions and using automated computer tracking. Left: A prototype of reflective tag glued to a locust nymph. These tags will allow us to track individual locusts in the field using an autonomous UAV equipped with a strobe and a camera (tracking method developped by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics).

WA marching locusts

Marching locusts in Western Australia during the 2007 outbreak.




©2010 - Video footage and pictures can only be used if credit is given to me, Jerome Buhl • E-mail me