Decision-making in ants, bees and slime moulds

Complex systems are those that are made up of large numbers of interacting units; examples come both from biology (e.g. the mammalian brain) and physics (e.g. weather patterns). Social insects are an example of a complex system. We study ants and honeybees to understand the mechanisms the individual insects use to achieve collective behaviour. We then use our biological knowledge to design nature-inspired optimization algorithms that take their inspiration from the ways individual insects adapt their behaviour depending on the required outcome at the level of the collective.

We also use the acellular slime mould Physarum polycephalum as a model organism. The slime mould is brainless, yet capable of making decisions about where to forage, it can trade-off risks, construct near-optimal networks and sometimes even behaves in the same way as humans.