Andrew Berdahl

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki

Rafting the Bow River, 2009

Hello all, Andrew Berdahl here. I am originally from Whitehorse, Yukon but currently reside in Calgary, Alberta, where I recently completed a Master's degree with the Complexity Science Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary. Previous to that, I did an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Waterloo. Before, after, between and during that schooling, I spent some time sailing, traveling, prospecting and working as a fishing guide. In the coming academic year I will start a PhD at Princeton University within the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with the intention to work on collective animal behaviour.

I am a sucker for rivers and streams. Fly fishing and canoing are my top in-stream activities, but I have been known to settle for kayaking, rafting or wading. In a more urban setting I quite enjoy squash. I plan to bring a fly rod and a squash racquet to the CSSS and I am sure canoes/kayaks/rafts are available for rent in Santa Fe, so let me know if you are up for any of these pursuits.

My email is (my last name In case you are curious here is a link to my website.


What are your main interests?

I really enjoy working with both brutally simple toy models and empirical data (ideally both together) specifically in the following areas:

  • Self-organized criticality, pattern formation and scale-free phenomena
  • Evolution and niche formation
  • Collective behaviour, animal spacial use patterns and food webs & ecosystems

What sorts of expertise can you bring to the group?

I have a half-way decent mathematical/analytical background specifically in the area of statistical mechanics. I also know a fair bit about random Boolean networks and their state space networks along with some analytical and computational techniques for dealing with them.

What do you hope to get out of the CSSS?

Through lectures and discussions I hope to learn more about a number of fields in which I have a great deal of interest but of which my knowledge is merely superficial. These should also enhance and expand the set of analytical techniques at my disposal. Further, I imagine the CSSS will be a great opportunity to establish collaborative relationships with young researchers with a diverse array of backgrounds. More specifically I would be delighted to learn how to create cool animations and sounds to better represent models and data.

Do you have any possible projects in mind for the CSSS?

These may just be silly ideas but:

  1. I have been tinkering with a model in which the agents are described a continuous variable that encodes their likelihood to eat the surrounding grass or to eat each other. Some preliminary results seem to show character displacement through niche creation. This project is far from done and would likely benefit from anyone with a knowledge of ecology or of game theory.
  2. I thought it might be fun to make some sort of model based on school yard budding in line. Friend A might give friend B "back buds" (let B skip into line directly behind A) this gains B's affection which may be useful later and does not harm A's place in line, but may upset everyone behind A. Alternately friend A could give friend B "front buds" (let B skip into line in front of A) this does set A one place back in line, but gains even more affection from B and MAY lessen the anger of those behind in line as they recognize that A too went back a place.
    1. One could examine the social scenario that develops (who likes whom) under a given set of interactions
    2. Or one might give the agents a range of strategies and then periodically cull the least successful players and replicate (possibly with mutations) the most successful players. Success could be determined by how often one was near the front of the line or by how many friends a player had, or perhaps some combination of those.
  3. The focus of my Masters was random Boolean networks. At the CSSS I hope to work on something new to me for my main project; however, if others were working on a model that involved random Boolean networks, I would be happy to lend a hand!