The present invention comprises a decentralized coordination strategy called alpha-beta coordination. The alpha-beta coordination strategy is a family of collective search methods that allow teams of communicating agents to implicitly coordinate their search activities through a division of labor based on self-selected roles and self-determined status. An agent can play one of two complementary roles. An agent in the alpha role is motivated to improve its status by exploring new regions of the search space. An agent in the beta role is also motivated to improve its status, but is conservative and tends to remain aggregated with other agents until alpha agents have clearly identified and communicated better regions of the search space. An agent can select its role dynamically based on its current status value relative to the status values of neighboring team members. Status can be determined by a function of the agent's sensor readings, and can generally be a measurement of source intensity at the agent's current location. An agent's decision cycle can comprise three sequential decision rules: (1) selection of a current role based on the evaluation of the current status data, (2) selection of a specific subset of the current data, and (3) determination of the next heading using the selected data. Variations of the decision rules produce different versions of alpha and beta behaviors that lead to different collective behavior properties.