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Potential Postgraduate Research Projects

If you are interested in pursuing post-graduate research in the Jandt lab, please contact me via email: jenny.jandt at otago.ac.nz

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Insect Biodiversity and Land Use

The Department of Zoology at the University of Otago has partnered with NZ Landcare Trust to assist with the Kakanui Catchment Project. From the website: The project’s main focus is to improve knowledge and awareness, of the various ways to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity (aquatic life and native plants) within the catchment, which includes the main Kakanui River and tributaries such as the Waiareka and Kauru sub-catchments. I am looking for students to take on projects that will help us identify the Hymenopteran parasitoid (wasp) and pollinator (bee) communities in these regions, with the ultimate goal of providing advice for residents on how they can monitor these communities to ensure health and sustainability of their land.

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Ant Colony Decision-Making

Monomorium antarcticum is endemic to New Zealand and can be found throughout the country, most often in undisturbed prairie or grasslands. Although the most common ant in NZ, there is little known about the biology or life-history of M. antarcticum. Colonies excavate nests about 5-10cm below the ground surface, often bordering on the surface of a large, half-buried rock. Foragers are rarely observed above ground. By using of ant-farms with established colonies in the lab, I am looking for students interested in testing hypotheses on collective decision making, emigration, and social or spatial colony organization.

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Simulating the Swarm

In collaboration with Mike Paulin, we are developing outreach workshops to show how simple robots and ant colonies can be used to better understand neural processing. Social insect colonies can perform a wide variety of tasks at one time because they are comprised of hundreds (and in some species, thousands!) of individuals that vary among one another. I am looking for students interested in testing hypotheses on how this variation among individuals may optimize (or in some cases, hinder) colony-level performance through the use of agent-based simulations and the development of robot swarms.