Enter the maze

As easy as a bee sees?

a bee in a flower

If it weren't for the bees we would be in trouble. In the worst case, life on Earth could go the way of Mars. No plants, no animals, no life. Bees are the main way that flowers get pollinated. As the bees sup the nectar they carry pollen from flower to flower, allowing new generations of flowers to grow. But the way a flower looks to our eyes isn’t the same way a bee sees it. For example, bee vision works into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum and under the correct lighting in a laboratory the wonderful, normally invisible, patterns that bees can see are revealed. Biologists all over the world have been collecting information about the sorts of patterns that particular flowers display. This display is called a spectral profile, and Samia Faruq, a computer science undergraduate at Queen Mary University of London supervised by Peter McOwan has done her bit to help these scientists peer into the world of the bees.

Her project involved creating a massive online database containing worldwide spectral profile information, so scientists can search this information easily. They can also combine information to help discover new facts using a method called clustering, where the computer pulls together all the data with similar properties.

Samia enjoyed the project: "I met and worked with amazing biologists during the project. It was great to find out what they needed and to be able to create it for them. I got the chance to collaborate and publish material together with them too. To know it will be used in their research is also very rewarding."