The Slime Mould Collective

An international network of/for intelligent organisms

Help? Slime mold to model effective transport routes in American School Districts


I am a botanist and artist and I work as a botanical and horticultural educator at Red Butte Gardens, which is one of the largest arboretums on the western half of the United States. As part of my job we travel to every school in the state of Utah to teach botany to first grade children. Plant blindness is a massive issue in my state, and most people aren't even aware of plant science as an entity. I was lucky enough to go to Weber State University which has one of the only botany programs in the surrounding 10 states. We are trying to encourage kids to do plant science and to start being aware of the natural world around them.

My department recently obtained a culture of Physarum polycephalum. We are looking to use it to model the shortest and most efficient routes to do outreach to schools in each district. 

I am a little lost about how to start. I will hopefully be able to obtain agar plates from the University of Utah or Weber State University otherwise I will purchase a pressure cooker and pour my own at home/work.

I have read up on care and storage of the physarum, I am more looking for guidance on the experiments. 

Do you have any suggestions or things to avoid? 

What is the best way to set up the maps? Should I do a maze, or should we use light avoidance to prevent it from going through mountains, lakes, etc? 

Does anyone have a lab protocol for this kind of thing, or primary literature that would be useful?

Thank you so much for your input.


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