Lehrstuhl für Zoologie / Evolutionsbiologie
(+49) 941 943 3356
I have always been fascinated by ants, and as a child spent many hours watching them go about their mysterious business. My growing interest in self-organizing systems and emergence led me to the study of the human brain and its ability to self-organize. In order to achieve a coherent understanding of this complex and interdisciplinary topic, I completed both a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Biology.
I have also ventured into tropical ecology and nutrient fluxes in my Master’s thesis, investigating the role of fungal patches in the Azteca/Cecropia ant-plant symbiosis in Costa Rica with Dr. Veronika Mayer. About this time, I decided to remain in the interesting area of ant research for the future but to combine it with my other academic expertise in psychology and collective decision making.
During an internship in Würzburg working with Prof. Dr. Flavio Roces I investigated task allocation in Acromyrmex lundi leaf-cutter ants. This equipped me with the skills and background I needed to begin my doctoral research here in the ACElab.
As a doctoral researcher in the ACElab, I am using my knowledge of animal cognition and psychology to examine the effect of expectations on value perception as well as higher cognitive abilities in ants.
The pheromone deposition behavior of Lasius niger can be easily recognized, providing us a powerful tool to address these topics.
Expectation disconfirmation: consumer psychology in ants
Do ants dislike what they do not expect? This is how humans behave, and is described in the expectation disconfirmation model.
Are the ants capable of learning abstract associations?
We will test the ability of ants to learn the concept of “sameness” and “difference” - abstract concepts often considered to require advanced cognitive abilities.
How does motivation affect learning in ants?
In theory, ants should learn faster if the rewards or their motivation to forage are higher. This will affect collective colony behaviour, and could explain adaptive collective decision making by colonies. Oddly, we are finding that food quality and motivation have a surprisingly small effect on learning speed.
Are ants affected by advertising?
Ants 'advertise' food sources to each other by depositing pheromone. Does this advertising affect how they assess the quality of food they find? Starting late in 2017, we will find out!
Apart from these projects, time will be allocated to promising side-projects and agent-based modelling.