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My research

 

Research interests:

When I was a child I was fascinated by ants and spent hours to look at them coming and going, carrying preys, building nest, fighting, tending other insects, … Today, it’s still the same, except that my observations are meticulous and I create the context for them to behave. In general, I’m interested by ant’s ecology, behaviour, evolution, distribution and mutualism with other organisms (insects, plants, fungi,…).
Now, I’m doing my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Rob Dunn at North Carolina State University. For the moment, my main project is on the ecology and impact of the Asian exotic ants Pachycondyla chinensis (Emery) in the southeastern part of the United States. This ant was introduced more than 75 years ago in the US and was described as having small colonies size (less than 150 workers) and very shy. However, for few years, we can find colonies with thousands of individuals. I try to understand the ecology of this species for which we have very few information and what can be its impact on the community. More precisely, I’m interested in measuring the effect on ants community, termites community and seed dispersal mutualism between Aphaenogaster rudis complex and some plants.
            I work also on the behavioural processes of formation of garbage in the Aphaenogaster rudis complex. Seed dispersal is generally study as a succession of events which are analysed singly. One of the neglected event is also one of the more important: the drop of the seed on the garbage pile. The location of this garbage pile and their properties are however very important for the fate of the seeds. Using field observations and laboratory experiments I try to define what are the behavioural process which determine the formation of the garbage pile and its location inside or outside of the nest. I’m working also on different aspects of the seed dispersal process in Australia and in the Smokeys National Park.
            I participate also to the global ant diversity project lead by Dr. Rob Dunn and Dr. Nathan Sanders. I contribute by adding data from Europe, Asia and Africa from literature review.

By the past, I did my master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Éric Lucas and Dr. André Francoeur at the Université du Québec À Montréal. I have work on the mutualistic interaction between ants and aphids, and how some factors like the species involved or the geographical distance between protagonist, affect the mutualist relationship. I was interested as well by the impact of ants on the aphids’ predator community; and more precisely by the ants’ impact on the Diptera Aphidoletes aphidimyza Rondani (Cecidomyidae). This predator, using a strategy of “furtive behaviour” is able to exploit the attended aphids colonies without being disturbed by the ants and even by being protected by them. Unintentionally, ants give it an “enemy free space” against its own predators.
Before this project, I have worked at the Biodome of Montreal, in the tropical ecosystem for monitored the ant diversity. Six different species of exotic ants, most of them belonging to the “tramp species” group were introduced accidentally. I have worked on their distribution inside the ecosystem and how they interact with each other to food access.
           
            Anytime that I can, I try to share my passion for ants and nature in general with children or public. In that purpose, I have animated different workshop for schools or museums. I also participate at different popularization events and writing.

           

I strongly believe of the interest to share knowledge between scientists but also with non-scientists people. For this reason, I try to create different tools to allow accessibility to the world of ants. Some are available on this website. I hope you will enjoy them, and don’t hesitate to give me feedback or comments. If you are interested to contact me, I’m always open to new contacts and/or projects. My E-mail is zeroben@gmail.com

           

 

           

Updated March 24, 2007