The main focus of the lab is the investigation of the sensory ecology of animal communication: . We explore the world of arthropods to discover novel ways that animals see and hear. Arthropods tend to be very small and so are masters of microminiaturization of their biosensors. At nano-and micro-scale, the physics and psychophysics of signaling become very interesting—not only to us but to our colleagues in engineering and robotics, who routinely deploy biomimicry as a source of inspiration for the next-generation of silicon-based biosensors. We focus primarily on the biocommunication systems of insects, as well as some spiders. Animals use a variety of communication signals, but we concentrate on their auditory and visual worlds: acoustic and visual signals, how signals are emitted, how they are processed by nervous systems, and how they have evolved. We study communication from several points of view, including neurobiology, anatomy, ethology, behavioral ecology, biomechanics, and evolution. Ours is an interdisciplinary lab with computer scientists and engineers, as well as biologists. We all benefit by continually teaching and learning from each other.
While our work focuses on insects and spiders as study animals, our findings reflect general principlesby which information is processed in the neural code of brain networks. We believe that neural information is processed in the same or similar ways, whether it is in the invertebrate or vertebrate brain. The glory of biological evolution is that it has produced many kinds of animals, each of which has its own way of adapting to its environment. In spite of this wonderful biodiversity, in terms of most basic functions and principles, there is only one biology (at least some of us think so, anyway).
We emphasize our research in this website but part of the lab is dedicated to the production of innovative teaching materials to enhance undergraduate biology education and you will find links to these projects, as well.
CURRENT RESEARCH TOPICS: Neuroethology, processing of higher order motion cues, vision, acoustics (both airborne and vibratory), learning and memory, behavior, and modeling.