Synopsis

Ants are remarkable creatures that support their colonies by retrieving items of food in an often complex landscape. There is an extensive amount of research on how various species of ant navigate their surrounding environment, but very little has been done on the common meat ant and virtually no study has investigated the cognitive abilities of problem solving as it relates to efficient foraging behaviour in any ant species. The impacts of temperature on ant activity is well established, but the impact of temperature and climate change on the cognitive ability (and subsequent foraging efficiency) of ants is less unknown.

Aims

In this project, the honours student will test the navigation abilities of meat ants in foraging mazes of a variety of complexity and under different temperature conditions. This study will be the first to document the impact of temperature on ant cognition and learning, and provide a broad assessment of the likely consequence of climate change on an ecologically important and dominant Australian invertebrate.

Student Benefits

  • Learn the skills of quantifying animal learning and cognition
  • Discover how learning impacts important ecological factors and survival
  • Gain or extend existing experience in conducting field work
  • Gain new skills in the animal psychology
  • Produce a world-first study that will be publishable in a leading behaviour or ecology journal