Scarlett Howard

Scarlett Howard
Monash University (Australia)

PhD MSc BSc

About

31
Publications
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Introduction
Dr Scarlett Howard is a lecturer and research group leader in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University. Her research spans cognition, behaviour, pollination, ecology, zoology, neurobiology, environmental change, and bio-inspired solutions. She predominantly works with bees and other insects to explore the cognitive abilities of miniature insect brains. Her work on honeybee cognition and pollination spans between collaborations across the world.

Publications

Publications (31)
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A frequent question as technology improves and becomes increasingly complex, is how we enable technological solutions and models inspired by biological systems. Creating technology based on humans is challenging and costly as human brains and cognition are complex. The honeybee has emerged as a valuable comparative model which exhibits some cogniti...
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The field of bioaesthetics seeks to understand how modern humans may have first developed art appreciation and is informed by considering a broad range of fields including painting, sculpture, music and the built environment. In recent times there has been a diverse range of art and communication media representing bees, and such work is often link...
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Angiosperms have evolved to attract and/or deter specific pollinators. Flowers provide signals and cues such as scent, colour, size, pattern, and shape, which allow certain pollinators to more easily find and visit the same type of flower. Over evolutionary time, bees and angiosperms have co-evolved resulting in flowers being more attractive to bee...
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Honey bees exhibit remarkable visual learning capacities, which can be studied using virtual reality (VR) landscapes in laboratory conditions. Existing VR environments for bees are imperfect as they provide either open-loop conditions or 2D displays. Here we achieved a true 3D environment in which walking bees learned to discriminate a rewarded fro...
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Colour signalling by flowers appears to be the main plant-pollinator communication system observed across many diverse species and locations worldwide. Bees are considered one of the most important insect pollinators; however, native non-eusocial bees are often understudied compared to managed eusocial species, such as honeybees and bumblebees. Her...
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Despite representing the majority of bee species, non-eusocial bees (e.g. solitary, subsocial, semisocial, and quasisocial species) are comparatively understudied in learning, memory, and cognitive-like behaviour compared to eusocial bees, such as honeybees and bumblebees. Ecologically relevant colour discrimination tasks are well-studied in eusoci...
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The majority of angiosperms require animal pollination for reproduction and insects are the dominant group of animal pollinators. Bees are considered one of the most important and abundant insect pollinators. Research into bee behaviour and foraging decisions has typically centred on managed eusocial bee species, Apis mellifera and Bombus terrestri...
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The work of the Nobel Laureate Karl von Frisch , the founder of this journal, was seminal in many ways. He established the honeybee as a key animal model for experimental behavioural studies on sensory perception, learning and memory, and first correctly interpreted its famous dance communication. Here, we report on a previously unknown letter by t...
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A correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-021-01497-z.
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Over one third of crops are animal pollinated, with insects being the largest group. In some crops, including strawberries, fruit yield, weight, quality, aesthetics and shelf life increase with insect pollination. Many crops are protected from extreme weather in polytunnels, but the impacts of polytunnels on insects are poorly understood. Polytunne...
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There is increasing interest in developing urban design principles that incorporate good ecological management. Research on understanding the distribution and role of beneficial pollinating insects, in particular, is changing our view of the ecological value of cities. With the rapid expansion of the built environment comes a need to understand how...
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Mikhalevich & Powell (2020) have built on the discussion about which species deserve inclusion in animal ethics and welfare considerations. Here, we raise questions concerning the assessment criteria. We ask how to assess different species for their ability to fulfill the criteria, which criteria are most important, how we quantify them (absolute o...
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The communication of research in an electronic age presents numerous opportunities to engage with the general public and/or industry that might directly benefit from new findings. The use of social media outlets typically has a narrative of better enabling connection between people, independent of distance or socioeconomic factors. Recent USA-based...
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Many animals need to process numerical and quantity information in order to survive. Spontaneous quantity discrimination allows differentiation between two or more quantities without reinforcement or prior training on any numerical task. It is useful for assessing food resources, aggressive interactions, predator avoidance and prey choice. Honeybee...
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Treves et al. (2019) propose a non-anthropocentric approach to conservation biology for the 'just preservation' of non-humans. Some of our current ways of ranking conservation efforts based on benefits to humans are indeed critically flawed, but we doubt that a completely non-anthropocentric approach is possible at this time. We propose a way to ge...
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Although bees are separated from humans by about 600 million years with a common ancestor that had only a rudimentary nervous system, they still share over 60% of our Genome. Any commonly observed learning principles between bees and humans may be consequently either basal, or may have evolved in parallel due to their efficiency. While the universa...
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In recent years honeybees have demonstrated intriguing numerical capacities, leading to the recent discovery of their ability to perform simple arithmetic by learning to add or subtract ‘one’ using symbolic representations of operators. When training an insect with a miniature brain containing less than one million neurons to understand a conceptua...
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Animals including humans, fish and honeybees have demonstrated a quantity discrimination threshold at four objects, often known as subitizing elements. Discrimination between numerosities at or above the subitizing range is considered a complex capacity. In the current study, we trained and tested two groups of bees on their ability to differentiat...
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The assignment of a symbolic representation to a specific numerosity is a fundamental requirement for humans solving complex mathematical calculations used in diverse applications such as algebra, accounting, physics and everyday commerce. Here we show that honeybees are able to learn to match a sign to a numerosity, or a numerosity to a sign, and...
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Many animals understand numbers at a basic level for use in essential tasks such as foraging, shoaling, and resource management. However, complex arithmetic operations, such as addition and subtraction, using symbols and/or labeling have only been demonstrated in a limited number of nonhuman vertebrates. We show that honeybees, with a miniature bra...
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To monitor and quantify the changes in pollinator communities over time, it is important to have robust survey techniques of insect populations. Pan traps allow for the assessment of the relative insect abundance in an environment and have been promoted by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) as an efficient data collection methodology. It...
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Plant-pollinator interactions have a fundamental influence on flower evolution. Flower colour signals are frequently tuned to the visual capabilities of important pollinators such as either bees or birds, but far less is known about whether flower shape influences the choices of pollinators. We tested European honeybee (Apis mellifera) preferences...
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Angle dependent colours, such as iridescence, are produced by structures present on flower petals changing their visual appearance. These colours have been proposed to act as signals for plant-insect communication. However, there is a paucity of behavioural data to allow for interpretations of how to classify these colours either as a signal or a c...
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Some vertebrates demonstrate complex numerosity concepts-including addition, sequential ordering of numbers, or even the concept of zero-but whether an insect can develop an understanding for such concepts remains unknown. We trained individual honey bees to the numerical concepts of "greater than" or "less than" using stimuli containing one to six...
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This article explores the use of mobile eye tracking to provide insights on the dynamics of haptic (touch/sense) and visual experience. We created a digital cultural walking trail (TRACES), designing an app to explore user experiences of their environment, and as a way to reveal the multilayered interactions between places and technology. Using mob...
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How different visual systems process images and make perceptual errors can inform us about cognitive and visual processes. One of the strongest geometric errors in perception is a misperception of size depending on the size of surrounding objects, known as the Ebbinghaus or Titchener illusion. The ability to perceive the Ebbinghaus illusion appears...
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Learning and applying relational concepts to solve novel tasks is considered an indicator of cognitive-like ability. It requires the abstraction of relational concepts to different objects independent to the physical nature of the individual objects. Recent research has revealed the honeybee's ability to rapidly learn and manipulate relations betwe...
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Honeybees are an important model species for understanding animal vision as free-flying individuals can be easily trained by researchers to collect nutrition from novel visual stimuli and thus learn visual tasks. A leading question in animal vision is whether it is possible to perceive all information within a scene, or if only elemental cues are p...

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