Automatic decoding of honey bee waggle dance communications

Are you interested in the project below? Awesome! PLEASE DO NOT APPLY THROUGH THE URO SITE. Instead, set up an interview with the prof/project advisor(s) as soon as possible. Then use this form: to send in your application by 5pm, December 10th. You may find it helpful to look at the form now before you start your application process.

Project overview: 

Honey bees are social insects with tens of thousands of bees per colony that have evolved amazing strategies to collectively solve problems. For example, they have a unique communication signal called a waggle dance that allows them to communicate the direction/distance to a rewarding resource. Scientists can "eavesdrop" on these conversations between bees and map the locations that dancing bees advertise. These maps can help us answer questions about honey bee foraging preferences across different landscapes. However, manual analysis of videos of waggle dances takes a very long time, limiting the number of experiments we can perform and our sample size per experiment. To deal with this problem, we have been testing and adapting code that automatically detects and decodes honey bee waggle dances. This Python code was recently developed by researchers at the University of London ( and uses the library OpenCV for computer vision. We have already adapted several processing steps to work with a wider range of videos (, and the plan for the spring semester is to optimize the clustering step and start testing the tracking step, which extracts information about the direction and distance indicated in each dance. We will use the final product to analyze videos of waggle dances and data from another project in the Bee Lab, mapping flowers from aerial drone images, to better assess how the distribution of flowers affects recruitment behavior.

Essay Prompts:

Please contact me to set up an interview, and apply through the Biology Research Form at this link:

Some things to consider for your interview:

What interests you most about the project, what do you hope to get out of the research project, and how does it fit with your long-term goals? 

How do your current skills and experience make you a good fit for the project?



Name of research group, project, or lab
Bee Lab
Why join this research group or lab?

The HMC Bee Lab is an interdisciplinary group that includes students from Biology, CS, Math, Engineering, and other fields studying a wide variety of questions about collective decision-making in both bees and ants. In this lab you will develop new skills and get a sense of many different kinds of research and approaches to answering questions. You could also potentially continue your work in a senior thesis project, present at regional or national conferences, and/or co-author a publication.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Computer Science
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

All applicants should have a strong interest in understanding the natural world. Second-year students are welcome to apply as well as more advanced Biology and CS students interested in applying their knowledge skills to practical problems. A knowledge of Python programming is required. Experience with OpenCV would be helpful but is not required.


Time commitment
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

For this project:

  • Python coding skills
  • computer vision techniques (OpenCV)
  • data analysis and visualization

All Bee Lab research students will learn to read and discuss scientific literature, and to communicate across disciplinary boundaries and with the public about their work.


Contact Information:
Mentor name
Morgan Carr-Markell
Mentor email
Mentor position
Postdoctoral Fellow
Name of project director or principal investigator
Morgan Carr-Markell, Matina Donaldson-Matasci
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 0 appl.
Hours per week
Spring - Part Time
Project categories
Biology (+1)
BiologyComputer Science