Project 1: Parasites infect their hosts and can alter the host’s behavior to create a more amenable environment for the parasite’s survival and reproduction. For instance, Toxoplasma gondii can infect warm-blooded animals, but only breed in cats. It then alters the behavior of non-cat hosts by diminishing their fear of felines, causing them to attack cats and thus transfer the infection to a new, environmentally favorable (for the parasite) host. T. gondii has been shown to alter the behavior of humans. Research has shown that infected drivers have a six-times greater risk of traffic accidents. It has also been linked to schizophrenia.
Project 2: Cordyceps fungi infect ants, causing them to climb away from the colony to a large plant. The Cordyceps fungi fruiting body grows through the dead ant and then releases its spores.