Ants live in high density populations and have high interaction rates that facilitate microbe, and pathogen, transmission. To survive the constant threat of disease wiping out a species, ants are expected to produce strong antimicrobials. As an undergraduate, I tested the theory that all ants produce general antimicrobials and found not all ants produce general antimicrobials. The goal of my Master’s degree is to better understand the role of general antimicrobials in ant societies and to identify any indicators for general antimicrobal production in ant species.
My current project is a two-part study focusing on interactions between ant species and human pathogens. My first aim is to try to identify a relationship between antimicrobial ability and susceptibility to human pathogens. My second project is to test if ant species’ threatened with a human pathogen can have a plastic antimicrobial response.