How, and the rate at which, organisms acquire and respond to information is of crucial importance to their survival. The sensory ecology of most animals follows typical characteristics, in that they interact with a physical or chemical gradient to locate substrate, mates, or avoid predators. Their reaction to such gradients is seen by directional change in their movement (e.g. chemotaxis) and/or speed (e.g. kinesis). The survival of soil-borne organisms relies heavily on such processes due to the opaque nature of soil and thus the limited use of visual perception within the soil.
Using a combination of theory and experiment we have investigated the impact of habitat on the movement of nematodes towards roots (chemotaxis), how the motility of nematodes impacts on biodiversity of bacterial populations, and the efficacy of biocontrol agents against pathogens.
Our models help us develop questions and related experiments to help better understand the environment and to help provide cost-effective solutions to real environmental problems.
Nematode Movement: A time-lapse video of Meloidogyne incognita moving on an agar plate towards sloughed cap cells from a maize root. From a BBSRC funded grant with the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Watch Video