New paper on lateralization

Today we finally publish some data that we collected back in summer 2015: an investigation of ant eye asymmetry (ommatidia count) and lateralization (turning bias). We found that ants who turned left in a branching maze tended to have slightly better vision (sampling resolution – more ommatidia) in their right eye, and vice versa.

For more details, check out this press release by UoB, and here’s the full paper, freely accessible on Scientific Reports 🙂


ASAB Easter conference

I had a wonderful time last week at The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB)’s Easter conference, which was hosted by biologists at the University of Plymouth. I presented some of my work on social spiders at UCLA, which should be published within the next month or two.

ASAB put on some very useful workshops, including how to write grant applications for small research projects, and the increasingly popular idea of ‘CV of failures’ – talking about times where research did not go to plan, or proposals were rejected. I was most impressed by how friendly and enthusiastic the animal behaviour scientists were at the conference, and so I decided to join! I am now a Member of ASAB. 🙂

Website rebooted

This website has existed as a free WordPress site for a while (probably a couple of years) but I hadn’t the time to add content and keep it up to date. Now I have my own postdoctoral fellowship, and I am expected to spend some time on Public Engagement activities, I think it’s worthwhile keeping a public face to my research up-to-date. To that end, I have rebooted the website with a proper URL,, and I hope to present a web page that is interesting and informative for the casual reader.

Revisions x4!

I have been learning the hard way about one central part of academic life: after papers are rejected, you shouldn’t give up on them! I submitted 4 papers at the beginning of 2018, and 3 of them were resubmissions after prior rejection in 2017, either ‘desk rejection’ from leading journals, or rejection following review. Now all 4 are in the ‘revise and resubmit’ stage and I am very happy that their final publication is in sight! In the case of papers that did receive peer review, I have done my best to revise my manuscripts on the basis of the comments, which has indeed improved their quality even though they were unsuccessful at that journal. I think the moral of the story is, don’t take rejection personally, it’s the bread and butter of the scientific process, where your ideas are tested by fire, and hopefully something more refined comes through in the end. Now, I just have to get on with those revisions…

Back to Bristol

I was delighted to receive an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowship, which I interviewed for in September 2017. This gives me funding to move back to Bristol, a city and university I love, to develop my PhD research for 2 years in a new context. For me, that means taking insights from collective animal behaviour (e.g. ant colonies) into the engineering of swarm robotic systems. I will be working with Dr Sabine Hauert, with a base in Bristol’s Engineering Mathematics Department, specifically the excellent Collective Dynamics Group there. I will be testing out my ideas in the Kilobot platform (1000 robot swarm) at one of Europe’s leading robotics laboratories, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.