The overall aim of our research is to understand the behavioural capabilities of insects and to model these using robots. Currently there are a number of specific topics we are investigating:
Desert ants forage individually (without chemical trails) and can reliably return to their nest or a food source over long distances in cluttered environments. We are studying these behaviours in the ants and building computational models of the neural processing that underlies navigation.
Within the current ‘Visual cues’ project we are building an ant VR system and investigating the key properties of the visual scene that control navigation.
Within the recent ‘Invisible’ project we recreated the visual input of navigating ants based on a 3D reconstruction of our field site, and investigated the use of polarization and UV light to improve navigation.
Learning in Drosophila
Adult fruit-flies can learn to avoid odours that are paired with shock, and larval fruit-flies will learn to avoid or approach odours that are paired with attractive or unattractive food. We are modelling the brain circuits underlying these changes in behaviour. There are some more details here from research on this topic in the MINIMAL project.
Other arthropod behaviours
We look at a range of other athropod sensorimotor control systems:
- Dung beetles
- Female crickets are able to locate mates by walking or flying towards the songs produced by males. We are modelling the neural circuits underlying this behaviour and testing the models on robots (including an outdoor robot). More details…
We are more generally interested in navigation in robots, either bioinspired or under conditions comparable to those experienced by animals, e.g., natural unstructured surroundings.