About the Animal Simulation Laboratory

Welcome to the Animal Simulation Laboratory based in the Computational and Evolutionary Biology research group at the Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester. We use a systems biology approach where we combine in silico simulations alongside more traditional experimental approaches to exploring adaptation and evolutionary processes. Our main focus is currently locomotor biomechanics. GaitSym, our main simulation program, is available open source and version 2013 has just been released. It can be downloaded from this site. However we are also interested in behavioural and environmental modelling, and ultimately we would like to create complete virtual worlds.

We are creating computer simulations of a number of animals and using them to investigate how they move and to extract details about their locomotor capabilities. We appreciate that simply creating simulations is not terribly useful so where possible we validate our simulations against experimental data. We are also looking at how groups of animals interact with each other and with their environments so that we can start to give our simulations the necessary behavioural repertoires for them to be able to survive in their virtual environments. This includes locomotion, foraging, resting and social behaviour.

Our computer simulations use physics simulators to model mechanical processes and we use various artificial intelligence techniques to produce the behaviours we are interested in: genetic algorithms, agent based modelling, neural networks. Our simulations take a great deal of computer time to run so are designed to work in a parallel fashion. This way multiple computers can work on the problem at the same time which greatly reduces the time taken. Our current implementation is running on various unix-based clusters but we have also tested versions on MacOSX and Windows.

Since this is potentially such a big project we welcome suggestions for collaboration. We are already working on a wide range of animals (primates, elephants, horses, dinosaurs) but realise that we need to include other groups (in particular invertebrates). We also need to work on interoperability so that we can ultimately construct an open virtual world that can incorporate a wide range of simulations.

Please check out the rest of the site to see the current projects we are working on, how to get in touch with us, our publications and our collaborators. Anyone interested in working with us is welcome to visit. We would particularly welcome anyone interested in PhDs to contact us.