How to Start Using Avida

Posted September 15, 2015 by Anya Vostinar in Information / 0 Comments

Hopefully you’re convinced of why you might want to use Avida (if not, check out Why Use Artificial Life to Study Evolutionary Biology). However, Avida is a pretty large and intimidating software system even for computer programmers, so I can only imagine how it feels to be a biologist looking at all those configuration files. Therefore, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide for which pages you should go to to get up and running with Avida as soon as possible, no computer science bachelor’s required.

  1. If you want to just download a version of Avida without worrying about the latest additions, the main Avida page has binaries that you can download.
  2. However, those binaries are pretty much guaranteed to not have the latest contributions to the software, since we use Git to maintain our main branch. If you feel up to using Git to pull our latest version, that is generally the best way to make sure you’re getting all the bells and whistles you might be interested in. Go to our Getting Started guide to be led through exactly how to pull from a Git repository; I promise it isn’t too hard!
  3. Once you have a version of Avida that runs, you’ll notice that it makes a number of new files with the extension .cfg. This is where you control all the settings. To understand the basic knobs you can turn, read through the Beginner Documentation. It is specifically written with biologists in mind to get you up to speed with no assumptions.
  4. You’re now ready to go run some experiments! However, you may have noticed that there is a lot more mentioned about Avida than you’ve been introduced to. At some point when you’re curious, take a look through the other pages on the Wiki to read about more specialized features in Avida.
  5. If you look through the code ever, you’ll probably come across something that isn’t documented in the Wiki. That’s because documentation is an ongoing effort. We’d love for you to contribute documentation if you figure something out, or feel free to ask us and we’ll try to write up that specific documentation for you.

What other resources would you like to see for learning how to use Avida?

Anya Vostinar

I’m a doctoral student in Computer Science and Engineering and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior at Michigan State University. I am studying the evolution of various group dynamics such as altruism, cooperation, and mutualism using computational tools such as Avida and simulations. I love organizing outreach activities to bring local school children to BEACON as well as developing educational tools that take advantage of technology.

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