Many natural and social phenomena involve individual agents coming together to create group dynamics, whether the agents are drivers in a traffic jam, cells in a developing tissue, or locusts in a swarm. Here I will focus on two examples of such emergent behavior in biology, specifically cell interactions during pattern formation in zebrafish skin and gametophyte development in ferns. Different modeling approaches provide complementary insights into these systems and face different challenges. For example, vertex-based models describe cell shape, while more efficient agent-based models treat cells as particles. Continuum models, which track the evolution of cell densities, are more amenable to analysis, but it is often difficult to relate their few parameters to specific cell interactions. In this talk, I will overview our models of cell behavior in biological patterns and discuss our ongoing work on quantitatively relating different types of models using topological data analysis and data-driven techniques.