I am spearheading the installation of an Messor ant colony at my college. I will be building or purchasing a vertical nesting chamber to fit a space 47" x 72" x 12" (WxHxD). I don't expect to build a 72" tall tank, but I would like to at least achieve 48" in height. I am a competent builder and woodworker and have access to all of our facilities' equipment including our welding shop and CNC machine.
I would like to keep my budget for materials bellow $500 (this won't include the lumber and metal as we already have these supplies).
The department head has asked for a budget proposal before 11/13/17 (nest Monday) , far sooner than we expected.
Thus I am in urgent need of design assistance, especially considering that I have not been allowed proper time to research the subject.
Here are my top questions:
Is there a good resource to quickly address the process in building a large, vertical nesting chamber?
If not, I could use help with these questions:
How thick should the chamber be to allow viewing of the ants while not disrupting their ability to fully colonize the space?
Should I attempt to make a multi-chambered, transparent chamber similar to Ant Canada's 'Omni-nest' enclosures?
Should I use Plexiglass or tempered glass for the construction of the nesting chamber?
How should I connect the corners? Aquarium silicone alone? Reinforced with welded metal framing?
What kind of mesh is best for use on the lid?
What substrate do Messor sp. prefer?
What kind of tubing is ideal for connecting the nesting and feeding chambers?
I would greatly appreciate any assistance with these questions.