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Biological Sciences

College of Arts & Sciences

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Istvan  Karsai 

423-439-6838 /
Brown Hall, Room 363

Research Interest:

My main research is concerned with several levels of organization, from individuals of colonies to populations of colonies. Insect societies offer examples of biological systems in which the component parts (individuals) seem to be fairly simple, and there isn't any hierarchical control among the individuals. The whole colony performs complex, integrated behavior via self-organization processes. I would like to understand how colony organization emerges from simple behavioral rules and how colonies adjust effort to solve colony level tasks. These processes of task allocation require individual insects to make individual decisions based only on local information. The emergence of complex patterns from the interactions of the agents is an exciting and "hot" field in current science, and this interests me far beyond the scope of the problems related to insect societies. More research interest are here:

Selected Publications:

Schmickl T, Karsai I. 2014 Sting, carry and stock: How corpse availability can regulate de-centralized task allocation in a Ponerine ant colony. PLoS ONE 9(12), e114611. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114611

Hamann H., Karsai I. and Schmickl T. (2013). Time delay implies cost on task switching: a model to investigate the efficiency of task partitioning. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. 75:1181-1206. 

Pokhrel L. Karsai I., Laughlin T.F. and Hamed M.K. (2013). Dorsal body pigmentation and sexual dimorphism in the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum). Ethology Ecology and Evolution 25/3:214-226. 

Laughlin A.J., Karsai I. and Alsop F.J. III (2013). Habitat partitioning and niche overlap of two forest thrushes in the southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests. The Condor 115(2):394-402.

Karsai I. and Phillips M.D. (2012). Regulation of task differentiation in wasp societies: A bottom-up model of the "common stomach" J. Theor. Biology 294:98-113.

Knisley J., Karsai I. and Schmickl T. (2011). Compartmental models of migratory dynamics. Math. Model. Nat Phenom. 6:245-259.

Karsai I. and Schmickl T. (2011). Regulation of task partitioning by a "common stomach": a model of nest construction in social wasps. Behavior Ecology 22:819-830.

Karsai I and Kampis G. (2011). Connected fragmented habitats facilitate stable coexistence dynamics. Ecological Modeling 222:447-455.


  • Evolution (BIOL4360)
  • Modelling Biological Systems (BIOL4367/5367)
  • Biometry (BIOL5500)
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