Why is my logo a weird-looking ant?
This baby is an illustration of "Ectatomma metallicum," a misnamed ant featured in W.W. Froggatt's 1907 Australian Insects. (This is the same unfortunately named Walter Wilson Froggatt known for other such popular works as Sheep-maggot flies and their parasites and Insects living in figs, with some account of caprification.) Ah, anyway, the species is now properly known as Rhytidoponera metallica or by its logically consistent common names: the green-head ant / the metallic pony ant.
Although I have nothing against R. metallica, I'm much more into its amazing New World cousin, Ectatomma ruidum. But since they look so similar—and since ole Froggie's illustrations are in now the public domain... No one needs to know, okay?
What research am I doing at the moment?
I am interested in many different things, but I'm slow at typing them up!
What strategies and rules do ants use during collective transport?Aside from humans, ants are the only organisms that regularly cooperate to transport items too difficult to be moved by an individual. (Think of moving that heavy sofa into your friend's new house.) Cooperative transport in ants is quite understudied, but even so, most of the current work focuses on transport over artificially flat surfaces. Ants must navigate over much more difficult terrain in the wild.
Although this behavior has been knowm for years, we know virtually nothing about how ants manage to move massive objects up sheer vertical surfaces! (Now think of moving that heavy sofa up 40 flights of stairs to your friend's new high-rise apartment.) We don't even know if they use different techniques or strategies when climbing up walls or carrying over the ground.