Dr Tanya Latty
Research and Teaching Fellow in Entomology
Centre for Carbon, Water and Food
C81 - ATP - The Biomedical Building
The University of Sydney
|Telephone||+61 2 8627 1122|
|Fax||+ 61 2 8627 1099|
Tanya Latty is an entomologist with a special interest in insect behaviour and ecology. She has a Bsc in Biology and Environmental Science from Trent University (Canada), and a PhD in insect ecology from the University of Calgary (Canada). Her highly interdisciplinary work involves local and international collaborations with researchers in a broad range of fields including mathematics, computer science, forestry and operations research.
Tanya Latty’s work focuses around three themes:
- Collective behaviour and swarm intelligence. Ants, bees and slime moulds are capable of achieving amazing feats of problem solving despite having small, or in the case of the slime moulds, no brains. How do they accomplish this? Understanding how simple systems solve complex problems can lead to the development of new bio-inspired technologies and computer algorithms. As such, Tanya works closely with mathematicians, computer scientists and operations researchers to apply what she learns from nature toward solving some of our most difficult technological problems.
- The ecology and behaviour of Australian native bees. Australia is home to at least 1600 species of native bee, yet we know almost nothing about the ecology and behaviour of the majority of species. Tanya is particularly interested in the potential role of native bees as alternative/supplementary pollinators in both rural and urban agricultural settings.
- Integrated pest management. Understanding the behaviour and ecology of pest insects allows for the development of novel, sustainable management strategies. Tanya is particularly interested in the behaviour and ecology of social and semi-social pest insects.
Teaching and supervision
Tanya teaches the undergraduate unit in entomology (ENTO2001).
Current research students
|Project title||Research student|
|Assessing the role of environmental complexity on decision making and foraging strategies in ant species||Caitlyn DRAYTON-TAYLOR|
|Making sense of a smelly situation: the effects of pollution on invertebrate memory and behaviour||Ryan LEONARD|
|The effects of urbanisation and landscape characteristics on insect assemblages in Sydney||Manuel LEQUERICA TAMARA|
Problem solving in slime moulds:Slime moulds are giant unicellular amoebas. Despite lacking a brain, these bizarre organisms are capable of complex problem solving. We have found that slime moulds are capable of balancing risk and food quality, adjusting their search strategies and balancing their nutritional uptake. I am broadly interested in exploring the behaviour of these organisms in more detail.
Dynamic problem solving in ants and slime moulds:The goal of this project is to understand how self-organized natural systems are able to solve problems under changing conditions. I aim to examine the mechanisms that allow these types of decisions to be made in two different decentralized systems: ant colonies and slime moulds. This is part of an international collaboration between the labs of Dr. Madeleine Beekman, Dr. Martin Middendorf, Dr. David Sumpter and Dr. Toshi Nakagaki.
Self-organised transportation networks in ants and slime moulds:I am interested in the structure, function and development of ant transportation networks. Human engineers and urban planners face the task of designing efficient and cost effective networks. Since building longer roads/tracks requires more resources (and is therefore more costly), a challenge for engineers is to design transportation networks that minimise resource use while still maintaining connectivity between cities, stations etc. Similar problems are faced by ant colonies which build trail networks to connect multiple nests to many food sources. How do ants 'design' transportation networks in the absence of centralised control? What, if anything, do ants optimise when building networks? This work is done in close collaboration with computer scientist Kai Ramsch at the University of Leipzig. In addition to these main projects, I have also worked on a number of organisms including: bark beetles, honey bees, banana slugs, Laricobius nigrinius, and flour beetles.
Ecology and Conservation of Australian Native Bees: Australia is home to 1600+ species of native bee and we know almost nothing about their behaviour and ecology. My research on native bees falls into three main areas: the urban ecology of native bees, developing techniues for increasing native bee abundance and diversity in agricultural areas, and investigating the behavioural ecology of native bees.
In the media
- Quirks & Quarks
- Brainless slime mould has an external memory
- Ants, swarms and navigation: biomimicry part 2
- No leader, no plans, no problem
- Ants build cheapest networks
- A colony of solutions
- Leader-less ants make super efficient network
- Slime moulds explain irrational humans
- What brainless moulds may teach us
- Let slime moulds do the thinking!
- Dinosaur Snake Snacks, Slime Mould Dining Decisions, How the Polar Bear Got its Coat, Run, Jumbo, Run, Typhoid Tricks, Dust in the Wind
- ScienceShot: Even Slime Molds Make Mistakes
- Brainless slime mould makes decisions like humans
- Humans and the slime mould
Agronomy, horticulture and precision agriculture; Food Security and Supply; Food Production, Quality and Safety
- Secure Pollination for More Productive Agriculture; Lowe A, Oldroyd B, Latty T; Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC)/Research and Development Projects.
- Genetic Resources and Gene Expression Facility for the Macleay Building; Oldroyd B, Byrne M, Latty T; DVC Research/Equipment Grant.
- Learning from nature: Infrastructure design inspired by resilience in ant colonies and bee hives; Latty T; DVC Research/Brown Fellowships.
- Toward a pollinator friendly city; Latty T; City of Sydney Council/Environmental Grants.
- Risky Business: Using biological systems to mitigate risk in supply chains and transportation networks; Garnier S, Bell M, Latty T, Bliemer M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Branco Weiss Fellowship; Latty T; Society in Science/The Branco Weiss Fellowship.
- Tracking moving targets: dynamic foraging in ants and slime moulds; Latty T; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- NSERC Fellowship; Latty T; National Research Council Canada/Research Support.
- Conference travel to the International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa, July 2008; Latty T; Ian Potter Foundation/Travel Support.