Are you interested in the project below? Awesome! PLEASE DO NOT APPLY THROUGH THE URO SITE. Instead, follow this link [https://forms.gle/hrbnmY5Dz9ZoW1bj8] to send in your application by Feb. 20th.
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 to better understand how we can improve bee nutrition and health. 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 (https://github.com/Jreece18/WaggleDanceTracker) and uses the library OpenCV for computer vision. We have already adapted several processing steps to work with a wider range of videos (https://github.com/beelabhmc/waggle_dance_decoding). We are currently working to optimize the clustering step. The summer project will involve testing the tracking step, which extracts information about the direction and distance indicated in each dance. It will also involve testing another method for automatically decoding waggle dances that uses OpenPIV, a Python package for Particle Image Velocimetry image analysis.
When we have results showing high accuracy of both waggle dance detection and extracted direction/distance information, we plan to organize/release our version of the code so that other honey bee researchers can easily use it to answer questions about honey bee foraging behavior. We will also also use it to automatically analyze our videos of waggle dances from the Bernard Field Station. We will then combine our dance mapping results with data from another project in the Bee Lab, mapping flowers from aerial drone images, to assess how the distribution of flowers affects honey bee recruitment behavior.
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.