Carol LaFayette's ant colony visualization
featured on PBS 'State of Tomorrow' series


“Visualizing the Future,” an episode of the PBS “State of Tomorrow” series featuring the work of students and faculty in the Visualization Laboratory at the Texas A&M College of Architecture can now be viewed online.

The six-minute Viz Lab segment, which aired last spring at the conclusion of the 2007 series’ 12th episode, can be accessed online in Windows Media Format at

Segment highlights include a look at a 3-D animation of a leaf-cutter ant colony undertaken by Carol LaFayette, associate professor of visualization, with the assistance of visualization graduate student Lauren Simpson.

The visualization, LaFayette said, incorporated data on the ant colony’s underground nest, which was gathered by ground-penetrating radar. The animation was displayed on an immersive visualization system designed by Fred Parke, professor of visualization.

Also featured in the episode are a variety of animations by Viz Lab students, who eventually find jobs with the nation’s top special effects and animation studios, such as Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Industrial Light and Magic.

The “State of Tomorrow” series, which focuses on the research activities at public universities in Texas, aired on PBS stations in Texas during the spring and summer of 2007. The show’s website says the series “highlights extraordinary work, groundbreaking research and the state’s most innovative thinkers who are committed to solving the greatest challenges of this new century.”

To learn more about LaFayette’s Atta texana ant colony project, visit

The Texas leaf-cutter ant, or Atta texana, is found mostly in Texas and Louisiana. It’s a fungus-farming ant species that harvests leaves from over 200 types of plants.

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Carol LaFayette and Lauren Simpson were interviewed by PBS about their work on a Viz lab animation of an ant colony.

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