Young Researchers Workshop:
Kinetic and macroscopic models for complex systems

Ant wuz here! Following the trail of recent ant network research

Simon Garnier

NJIT and Rutgers University


Everyday and all over the world, kitchens are the targets of formidable heists perpetrated by armies of tiny thieves, the ants. By the hundreds, they take sugar boxes and marmalade jars by storm, and carry their loot back to their nest following a complex network of routes visible only to them. Fifty years ago, the discovery of the chemical nature of these routes by E. O. Wilson opened a new way of understanding the incredibly efficient organization of ant colonies, based on simple behaviors and powerful scents. In this talk, I will show recent discoveries on how ants use their chemical trails as a form of externalized memory that can help them navigate, organize their traffic and make complex collective decisions. I will present results of field and experimental studies and give a broad overview of mathematical and computer models of trail formation and trail use by various species of ants. I will also discuss recent application of the ants’ “chemical logic” in operation research and collective robotics. Finally, I will introduce future directions of research, with a particular focus on the flexibility of these trail systems and their ability to integrate and process multiple sources of information.