top of page
screenshot of a simulation of a large starling flock

Dr. Marina Papadopoulou

Computational Biologist | Postdoctoral Researcher

Collective animal behavior; self-organization; agent-based modeling

Profiles & Contact

  • googlescholar_logo_edited
  • email_logo
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Research Overview

I am a theoretical biologist with an expertise in self-organized social systems and agent-based modeling. My research focuses mainly on the collective behaviour of animals, such as fish schools, bird flocks and baboon troops, aiming to understand how complex spatio-temporal patterns emerge in nature. To identify their underlying mechanisms, I combine the analysis of empirical data and the development of computational models based on self-organization. I am particularly interested on the effects of individual variation in collective behaviour, as well as across species comparisons. As side projects, I also work on the science of science, machine learning and meta-research.

Keywords: collective behavior; self-organization; computational models; biohybrid systems, collective escape; collective intelligence; collective decision-making; bird flocks; fish schools; baboon troops; sociality; complexity science.

Current Projects:

Individual heterogeneity & collective motion across species (2G-SWARM)

Collective escape in bird flocks:
disentangling complex patterns


harnessing collective behaviour to resolve human-wildlife conflicts

I am currently leading the 2G-SWARM project of Andrew King (Swansea University), studying the effect of individual heterogeneity in the collective behavior of several animal groups (i.e. baboon troops, fish schools, goat herds, and bird flocks), aiming to create new bio-inspired algorithms for swarm robotics. Our methods include the analysis of spatial data (mainly GPS trajectories) and the development of species-specific agent-based models.

More about the project here.


In this project, in collaboration with Charlotte K. Hemelrijk and Hanno Hildenbrandt (University of Groningen), we investigate how complex patterns of collective escape emerge in bird flocks. Our study species include pigeons, corvids and starlings. We use video and GPS data of bird flocks escaping a RobotFalcon in the field to drive the development of agent-based models in a pattern oriented way, aiming to describe the emergent mechanism of the observed patterns.

More about the project here.

I am involved in projects that aim to develop practices for the use of artificial predators, robots and UAVs to drive animal groups away from sites in which they act as pests (e.g. bird flocks away from airports) and in which they are threatened by human activity.

More info coming soon.


Behavioural individuality and leadership in bio-hybrid groups of clonal fish

Animal groups into the Swarm-Verse

As part of my FSBI Postdoctoral International Travellin Fellowship, in January 2023 I joined the group of Jens Krause and David Bierbach at Humboldt University of Berlin to study leadership dynamics in fish schools using the RoboFish.


More info coming soon.

In collaboration with Simon Garnier (New Jersey Institute of Technology) and Andrew King (Swansea University), we developed an R package that automates the analysis of collective motion data, to support and promote comparative work across species and ecological contexts. 

For more info see:

The package is continuously being developed and extended, the first version is now available on CRAN. If you are interested in further functionalities feel free to get in touch.


For a full list, please see my Google Scholar profile.

swaRmverse: an R package for the comparative analysis of collective motion

Papadopoulou M., Garnier S., King A. J. (2024)

Under review

Coming soon

Baboon travel progressions as a ‘social spandrel’ in collective animal behaviour

Fele M., Fürtbauer I., Lurgi M., Papadopoulou M., Bracken A. M., Christensen C., O’Riain M. J., King A. J. (2024)

Under review

Coming soon

DaNCES: a framework for data-inspired agent-based models of collective escape

Papadopoulou M., Hildenbrandt H., Hemelrijk C.K. (2024)


Coming soon

Linking age-dependent energy availability, movement, and sociality in a wild primate (Papio ursinus)

Fürtbauer I., Shergold C., Christensen C., Bracken A.M., Heistermann M., Papadopoulou M., O’Riain J., King A.J. (2024)

Under review

Coming soon

Diffusion during collective turns in bird flocks under predation

Papadopoulou M., Hildenbrandt H., Hemelrijk C.K. (2023)

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 11: 1198248. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2023.1198248

Dynamics of collective motion across time and species

Papadopoulou M., Fürtbauer I., O’Bryan L., Garnier S., Georgopoulou D., Bracken A., Christensen C., King A.J. (2023)

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 20220068. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0068

Biologically inspired herding of animal groups by robots.

King A.J., Portugal S.J., Strombom D., Mann R.P., Carrillo J.A., Kalise D., de Croon G., Barnett H., Scerri P., Gross R., Chadwick D.R., Papadopoulou M. (2023)

Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.14049

Emergence of splits and collective turns in pigeon flocks under predation.

Papadopoulou M., Hildenbrandt H., Sankey D.W.E., Portugal S.J., Hemelrijk C.K. (2022)

Royal Society Open Science, 9:211898. doi: 10.1098/rsos.211898

Self-organization of collective escape in pigeon flocks.

Papadopoulou M., Hildenbrandt H., Sankey D.W.E., Portugal S.J., Hemelrijk C.K. (2022)

PLoS Computational Biology, 18(1): e1009772. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009772

Relationship between conservation biology and ecology shown through machine reading of 32,000 articles.

Hintzen R., Papadopoulou M., Mounce R., Banks-Leite C., Holt R., Mills M., Knight A., Leroi A., Rosindell J. (2020)

Conservation Biology, 34 (3), 721-732. doi: 10.1111/cobi.13435

On Revolutions.

Leroi A., Lambert B., Mauch M., Papadopoulou M., Ananiadou S., Lindberg S., Lindenfors P. (2020)

Palgrave Communications, 6 (1), 1-11.  doi: 10.1057/s41599-019-0371-1  


Marina Papadopoulou, PhD

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Dr Andrew King at Swansea University, and the 2023 Outgoing FSBI Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at Humboldt University of Berlin, in the group of Prof Dr Jens Krause. In Swansea, I am leading the 2G-SWARM project on developing data-inspired models of collective behaviour with applications in swarm robotics. I completed my PhD at the group of Prof Dr Charlotte Hemelrijk on self-organization of social systems, studying the emergence of complex collective patterns in bird flocks under predation using computational models. I have a BSc in Biology from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and a MSc in Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution from Imperial College London. My day to day work includes data analysis, algorithm development, and agent-based modelling (more details here). I have experience in teaching animal behavior, self-organization and agent-based modelling, supervising BSc, MSc and PhD students, and organizing conferences.

I am also the creator of BiasWatchEvol (gender bias in publications of ecology and evolutionary biology,, member of the Equality Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Swansea University, an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, a founding member of SEMF (a society for multidisciplinary research), a co-producer of a documentary on sustainable agriculture (Bananageddon) and a fencing athlete and coach.

Event organization

I have chaired the organization of international events for up to 700 participants, supervising organizing teams of up to 25 members.

I have recently co-organized an ASAB Interdisciplinary workshop on 'Biohybrid systems in animal behavior' at Swansea University (September 2023). For more information see below:

Interested in organizing a conference together?
Get in touch!


I perform data analysis using mostly R and Python, and agent-based modelling using C++ (and NetLogo for student projects). I have experience in machine learning techniques, algorithm development, natural language processing, high-performance computing, metaprogramming, graphic libraries and R package development.


Teaching & Supervision

I have taught and organized bachelor and master courses on self-organization, animal behaviour and agent-based modelling, working with students of diverse educational backgrounds (e.g., biology, physics, computer science, artificial intelligence, engineering and phsycology). I have supervised many student projects on collective behavior at BSc, MSc and PhD level.I have also delivered programming workshops for girls and women through several non-profit organizations such as Django Girls. As part of the postgraduate development program of Swansea University, I provide workshops on Data Visualization for students and staff. I have given science communication talks to kids, teenagers and adults on animal collective behaviour and the use of models to understand complex phenomena.

I am always happy to (co-) supervise students on various projects, especially on agent-based modeling.

bottom of page