Matt Hasenjager: the Mark Zuckerberg of the Guppy World

Matt Hasenjager: the Mark Zuckerberg of the Guppy World

Matt Hasenjager, photo courtesy of Luke Seward

Biology graduate student Matt Hasenjager presents his research on social networks as part of TEDxUofL 2015


Imagine a Michelin-starred chef opens a restaurant in Louisville. You want a reservation, but the location is closely guarded by the city’s dining elite. There are no ads in

The Courier-Journal, no phone book listings and no Yelp reviews.

How do you get a seat at the table? Your social network.

Social networks are simply put, relationships between friends, family and colleagues. The better connected you are, the easier it will be to find the latest hidden gastronomic gem. The same goes for a particularly scenic hiking trail or sought-after physician.

Even fish depend on social networks.

Matt Hasenjager studies the social networks in guppies to determine how individuals influence the group and each other. He is also interested in social learning and how the structure of the social network influences the transfer of information.

“How fast does information – like a novel behavioral technique or the location of a hidden food source – spread?” he said.

Apparently, as with humans, it all depends on who you know.

A doctoral candidate in the College of Arts & Sciences Department of Biology, Hasenjager presented his research at “TEDxUofL: Interconnectedness” on February 28, 2015.

“Interconnectedness matters not just for humans, but for animals as well,” he said. “You can study social networks and learning on a simpler level to gain insight into how interconnectedness works on a more complex level.”

Networks can be global and high tech – like Facebook or Twitter – or local and no tech – like a small village in East Africa. And in the last 15 years, there has been a growing interest in studying networks in non-humans as a means to study groups in nature and a way to look at those concepts across the natural world, said biology professor Lee Dugatkin.

“Networks exist in a variety of forms. By studying them across fields and contexts, we can better capture the complexities of our world,” Hasenjager said. “Network-based approaches offer a more realistic vision of how nature truly is compared to earlier methods that ignored the implications of interconnectedness.”

Whether observing guppies in Prof. Dugatkin’s biology lab or presenting on a public stage, Hasenjager’s research offers insight not only into a common fish, but into an even more common phenomenon to which we are all connected.

For more information, visit TEDxUofL.