Tomer Czaczkes, Ph.D.
University of Regensburg, Germany
Animal Comparative Economics Lab
My first scientific contact with ants was seeing people drop ants from a bridge in a rainforest. When I asked why they were doing that, they said “for science”. I knew then and there that I wanted to be an experimental biologist.
My doctoral studies introduced me to the black garden ant Lasius niger, the most common ant in Europe. It is a fantastic study organism, as it is very robust and easy to manipulate. Most importantly, as with many other ants, L. niger communicate with each other by laying chemicals – pheromones – on the ground, to lead their sisters to valuable resources. In L. niger, this behaviour is very easy to observe and quantify (see for yourself!). The stronger the pheromone trail, the more likely ants are to follow it. This has recently led me to the realisation that pheromone laying can be used as a ‘window into the mind of an ant’. Since it is in the ants’ interest to accurately signal the quality of a resource to her sisters, she should lay more pheromone to resources she considers more valuable. Thus, we can use this behaviour to see how much an ant values something – a food source, for example. I founded the Animal Comparative Economics lab three years ago in order to explore how invertebrates perceive value, and what can cause things to seem more or less valuable to them. Our work has led us into comparative and consumer psychology, behavioural economics, information use strategies, and decision-making under risk and uncertainty. I occasionally get distracted and run projects on evolution or behaviour in spiders, toilet formation in ants, or anything else which sounds amusing.
Cinzia Chiandetti, Ph.D.
University of Trieste, Italy
Laborarory of Animal Cognition (L.A.C.)
Cinzia Chiandetti is Assistant Professor at the Psychology Unit “Gaetano Kanizsa” of the Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste where she teaches Cognitive Neuroscience and Animal Cognition. She obtained the Ph.D. in Neuroscience at B.R.A.I.N. in Trieste by studying the spatial reorientation abilities of domestic chicks. Then, she has been a fellow at CIMeC in Rovereto addressing the role of environmental factors in the shaping of cerebral lateralization. Cinzia visited several labs where she gained experience on the study of different avian species, from zebra finches to pigeons, before coming back to Trieste with the challenge of testing the cognitive advantage of an alien species, the crayfish Procambarus clarkii. She is now head of the Laboratory of Animal Cognition where she also investigates the biological roots of prosody and musical preferences using the newborns of the domestic chick as the elected model system. Awarded by a L’Oréal prize For Women in Science in 2010, she is now ambassadress For Girls in Science to promote the study of scientific topics in the youngest generations.
Anna Wilkinson, Professor
University of Lincoln, UK
I joined the University of Lincoln in 2010 and am a Professor in the School of Life Sciences. Before coming to Lincoln, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Vienna. My research focuses on understanding animal cognition as part of a biological framework. I have two main research areas:
I am interested in the way reptiles and amphibians perceive the world, how they learn about their environment and how they use and retain this information.
Perception and Categorisation
I am interested in how animals process the vast amount of information that they perceive daily, why they attend to certain elements of their environment and how flexible their use of this information is.