Insects are essential to agriculture, but insect numbers are suffering immense and rapid declines due to climate change, human use of pesticides and herbicides, the introduction of agricultural monocultures, and the destruction of their native habitat. The long-established relationships between insects and plants are changing in poorly understood ways that impact heavily on human food supplies. This body of research is constructing evolutionary agent-based models and other computer simulations of change in crop-pollinating insects: honeybees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and flies. This model shows how these population changes affect production, and predict field layouts, greenhouse designs and planting regimes for ongoing pollination success - for economic viability, and national and global food security. Our "artificial life” plant-pollinator simulations incorporate insect-specific visual perception, innate and learned foraging behaviour, and other important physiological factors, to help us design a sustainable future that enables insects to support natural ecosystem maintenance and human food production.
Associate Professor Alan Dorin