A Matlab user-interface tool for modeling herds

Adam S. Green, University of St. Thomas
John T. Scheele
Paul R. Ohmann

Abstract

Animal flocks, schools, and herds are iconic examples of agent-based complex systems. Individual animals interact with each other in ways we can model on a computer, with group properties emerging under certain conditions. In this paper we provide a Matlab-based user-interface tool (UI) that allows users to model herds with two prominent algorithms—the Voronoi and Local Crowded Horizon attraction models—in environments with and without predators. This UI also allows the user to include random animal motion (or noise) with the herding algorithms, which can facilitate herd cohesion and lower predation risk. Our UI is well suited for the teaching of complex systems, allowing students and those new to the field to build an intuition on how group behaviour can emerge from individual interactions. Ultimately, relating simulation results to observations of animals in nature helps refine our models and improve our understanding of these biological systems.