Planktos: An Agent-Based Modeling Framework for Small Organism Movement and Dispersal in a Fluid Environment with Immersed Structures

W. C. Strickland, N. A. Battista, C. L. Hamlet, L. A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiscale modeling of marine and aerial plankton has traditionally been difficult to address holistically due to the challenge of resolving individual locomotion dynamics while being carried with larger-scale flows. However, such problems are of paramount importance, e.g., dispersal of marine larval plankton is critical for the health of coral reefs, and aerial plankton (tiny arthropods) can be used as effective agricultural biocontrol agents. Here we introduce the open-source, agent-based modeling software Planktos targeted at 2D and 3D fluid environments in Python. Agents in this modeling framework are relatively tiny organisms in sufficiently low densities that their effect on the surrounding fluid motion can be considered negligible. This library can be used for scientific exploration and quantification of collective and emergent behavior, including interaction with immersed structures. In this paper, we detail the implementation and functionality of the library along with some illustrative examples. Functionality includes arbitrary agent behavior obeying either ordinary differential equations, stochastic differential equations, or coded movement algorithms, all under the influence of time-dependent fluid velocity fields generated by computational fluid dynamics, experiments, or analytical models in domains with static immersed mesh structures with sliding or sticky collisions. In addition, data visualization tools provide images or animations with kernel density estimation and velocity field analysis with respect to deterministic agent behavior via the finite-time Lyapunov exponent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number72
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Agent-based models
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Multi-scale modeling
  • Plankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pharmacology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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