ASU's social insect experts featured on STEM Journals TV show


Sandra Leander

Social insects are studied at length in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. Ants and bees, as well as termites and wasps, are investigated to help scientists learn about social systems and bioengineering.

Geoff Notkin, host of Cox 7 Arizona’s “STEM Journals,” interviews ASU associate professor Stephen Pratt and ASU doctoral candidate Jon Bobek as part of a half-hour episode focused on social insects.

Notkin meets Pratt in his ASU lab, where STEM Journals viewers can get an up close look at leaf cutter, honey pot and harvester ants, as well as learn about how ants make decisions.

Pratt and his lab investigate the emergence of complex social behavior in leaderless and decentralized groups, particularly in social insect colonies. He and his students use experiments and mathematical models to understand the behavioral rules and communication networks that allow colonies to act as a collective intelligence.

The show also takes viewers to the ASU bee annex where Notkin meets School of Life Sciences doctoral candidate Jon Bobek. Bobek works with professor Gro Amdam – a Norwegian biologist who is internationally known for her research on behavior and aging in honey bees.

Amdam’s ASU lab uses the honey bee to study the origins of social behavior. Her research team also investigates honey bee social structure to understand how social behavior evolved from ancestral solitary forms of life.

STEM Journals is a television show for middle school students focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The show airs on Cox Channel 7/1007 at 7 p.m., Sundays.