How can slime mold help city planners?

Mountain Connection, May 4th, 2022

This week Ms. Durkan’s upper school biology class is learning about the variety of lifeforms on our planet and how humans define intelligence in other organisms. More specifically, they are studying a protozoan species of slime mold nicknamed “The blob”.  Slime molds typically live in very moist environments, which makes them tricky to cultivate in CO; however, they have a super cool adaptation that allows them to dry out and remain dormant for years at a time.  This is the stage the class used to design their experiments.  Scientists around the world are researching this slime mold and one area of focus is how they make decisions.  If food is placed in a maze, the mold will figure out the most efficient pathway to the food source by actively sending out little projections and retracting when necessary. In one famous study, slime molds were presented with food (oats) placed in the pattern of Tokyo’s major cities and within a few hours, the slime mold mapped out one of the most efficient railway systems in the world.

Ms. Durkan tasked her students with designing their own experiments and gave them freedom to be creative in their plans. Ms. Durkan shared that, “these are some of my favorite class periods because the students really get into the design process and I love seeing how innovative they are.  It will be fun to see how ‘the blobs’ respond!”

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