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Thomas O'Shea-Wheller

PhD Candidate, University of Bristol

I have long been fascinated by social insects, and in particular ants, due to their advance social organisation and striking similarity to our own species. My research investigates the mechanisms that underlie self-organisation and collective decision-making within ant colonies, and the wider implications that these processes have within the fields of ecology, evolution and complexity science.

Specifically, I study the ant species Temnothorax albipennis, investigating the methods by which colonies of this species are able to make rapid and effective group decisions, simply by adherence to basic rules.
Beyond ants, I am interested in the diversity of ecosystems and taxa, and the impacts that human activities have upon them, having previously conducted research into the effects of pesticides upon bee populations.

I believe that gaining a greater understanding of the rules and processes that underpin biological systems is key to advancing the study of ecology and evolution, and in safeguarding the habitats that numerous species, including our own, rely upon.


  • 2013–present
    PhD Researcher, University of Bristol
  • 2011–2013
    BSc Biological Sciences, University of Exeter


  • 2013 
    University of Exeter, First class Honours degree, BSc Biological Sciences


  • 2016
    Migration control: A distance compensation strategy in ants,
  • 2015
    Differentiated Anti-Predation Responses in a Superorganism,
  • 2015
    Computational model of collective nest selection by ants with heterogeneous acceptance thresholds,
  • 2014
    Ants show a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites,
  • 2014
    Effects of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam at field-realistic levels on microcolonies of Bombus terrestris worker bumble bees,