Dr. Noa M. Pinter-Wollman is a lecturer and core course coordinator in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University. Her
Dr. Noa M. Pinter-Wollman is a lecturer and core course coordinator in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on animal social behavior, specifically the coordinated behavior of animals that live in a social groups.
Abstract: The behavior of biological systems emerges from the self-organization of multiple agents that interact with one another and follow simple local rules. However, not all individuals within the system are identical. I study how individual variation in the behavior of worker ants affects the behavior of the colony, a complex biological system, as a whole. In social insects, natural selection acts at the colony level. Colonies of harvester ants use interactions among workers to closely regulate their foraging activity and balance the trade-off between acquiring food and loosing water due to desiccation while foraging. I will present empirical work from the field and lab along with computer simulations to show how individual variation in worker behavior affects the speed of information processing by colonies. I further show that colonies vary in how they adjust their collective behavior to environmental cues linking variation at the colony level to behavioral variation among individual workers. By exploring the causes and consequences of individual variation within and among social insect colonies I hope to further our understanding of how complex biological systems operate and evolve.