EAGR Philly is proud to announce a successful first science education workshop was held at The Franklin Institute on December 12, 2012. During this two hour session, 40 Students from Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy met with a graduate researcher from The University of Pennsylvania who is studying social behavior in animals.
During the pilot workshop, students performed a simple animal behavior experiment that asked the question: “How well can a colony of ants choose between two nest options?” Each group of four students was given a colony of local Philadelphian acorn ants (Temnothorax curvispinosus) and a dissecting microscope. Students then placed two nest options in the test environment, and removed each colony’s current nest. The ants were then given a one hour cool down period, during which they were able to explore both potential new nest sites.
During the one-hour cool down period, the SLA students listened to a thirty minute presentation on social behavior, insects, cooperation, and competition. Students also watched several videos of social behavior in action, ranging from flocks of birds and fish, to colonies of Amazonian Army Ants. The presentation concluded with several videos from the GRASP lab at UPenn, a laboratory that is combining principles of social behavior with engineering to develop automated mechanical swarms of flying robots that are controlled not by human hands, but instead by a colony optimization algorithm.
After the cool down, each of the four students in every group counted the number of ants in each nest site, and then averaged the result and entered them into a collaborative data spreadsheet.
This lab was intended to inform students about principles of animal behavior, social insects, sociality, data collection, animal husbandry, estimation and averaging.
The next EAGR workshops are tentatively scheduled for March, April, and May of 2013.
Please Check back soon for more updates!