The navigation of social insect foragers is existence proof that small brained animals are capable of sophisticated spatial cognition. In the Sussex Insect Navigation Group we combine lab and field work with computational modelling to investigate the mechanisms underpinning insect navigation.

What sensori-motor processes facilitate cue integration in ants?

In this Marie Curie project, we are investigating the interaction of Path Integration and visual cues in desert ants and the interaction betwen olfactory and visual guidance in wood ants. An article about the project can be found here.

Insect inspired algorithms for autonomous agent navigation

Rather than building maps, insects seem to navigate in a procedural way; I.e they know what to do, not necessarily where they are. The simplest procedural way to use visual information is to let a panoramic view define a movement direction. This works well for ants because they only move in the direction of their body axis and their eyes are in a fixed position. We are investigating algorithms that can guide routes by simply searching for views that are familiar.

Cue integration in ant navigation: Interactions between pheromone trails and learnt visual cues

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The integration of social (trail) and private (visual cues) has been studied from a behavioural ecology perspective. However we know little about the mechanistic details of cue integration. We will study in fine-detail how ants respond to managed trails and visual cues in isolation, conflict or agreement. This will show us whether ants are able to solve the cue integration problem through judicious sensori-motor behaviour or whether the solution requires central processing.