About the Project
We will start by gaining fundamental insights into individual Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) learning and decision-making. Then, individual choice will be steered using behavioural economic and cognitive interventions. Psychological effects, such as conditioned taste aversion, which may cripple current alien species management, will be tested and overcome. Finally, we will use neuroactives (e.g. caffeine) to improve learning and manipulate preference.
We will then I will take the individual-level manipulations on to the colony level, in order to gain deep insights into collective cognition. Experimental manipulation of collective choice using cognition-based methods are very limited. The few available studies all focus on species which use linear recruitment, where signal effectiveness is proportional to signal quantity. By contrast, all major invasive ant species use non-linear mass recruitment. Non-linear systems are expected to behave much more like individuals than linear systems when challenged with cognitive manipulations, but this prediction has never been tested. We will provide the first empirical tests of such predictions: Using both cognitive and chemical manipulations, we will attempt to steer preference and increase consumption of target food sources by whole insect colonies.
The PhD student will carry out learning assays on individual ants. Then, they will develop a high-throughput system for testing collective decision-making on multiple ant colonies simultaneously. Using image and video analysis, they will develop tools to automatically collect data from these parallel experiments. Alternatively, in collaboration with colleagues, we use advanced machine vision techniques to trace the network structure of ant colonies, and attempt to influence it.
- an MSc in Biology, Zoology, Entomology, Comparative Psychology, or a related discipline
- excellent spoken and written English
- experience in animal behaviour research
Applications should include a CV, a cover letter explaining the candidates' suitability for the position, and contact details for 1-2 references.
Czaczkes TJ, Kumar P (2020) Very rapid multi-odour discrimination learning in the ant Lasius niger. Insectes Sociaux. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-020-00787-0
Hübner C, Czaczkes TJ (2017) Risk preference during collective decision making: ant colonies make risk-indifferent collective choices. Anim Behav 132:21–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.08.003
Oberhauser FB, Koch A, De Agrò M, et al (2020) Ants resort to heuristics when facing relational-learning tasks they cannot solve. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 287:20201262. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1262
Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.
Based on your current search criteria we thought you might be interested in these.
Supporting Behaviour Change - using research in cognitive and social psychology that has identfied strategies that improve the transition from an individual’s intentions and their actual behaviours
University of Reading