DATE: Friday, 1st June 2018
LOCATION: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds – room ka4.207 (green room)
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Melbourne Campus at Burwood –Burwood Corporate Centre; and Warrnambool Campus, Room J2.22
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ABSTRACT. The ability to navigate is fundamentally important for life on earth. Vision, in particular, provides robust information on routes and places and this information can (and must) be quantified in order to understand the neural basis of navigational knowledge. Animals need to acquire navigational knowledge, most importantly for tasks at the local scale of their daily lives, and insects such as ants, bees and wasps allow us to study this process of active acquisition and subsequent use of navigational information in detail under the complex natural conditions in which animals operate. A particularly provocative fact is that these small insects with their comparatively low-resolution vision systems and compact brains are so competent at finding their way around the world. They do offer us the unique opportunity, however, to track their movements and gaze directions in detail, to reconstruct what information they have available under natural operating conditions, to investigate their behaviour in reconstructed reality arenas and increasingly also to unravel the neural machinery that supports their competence. I will discuss what insects tell us about where we should be going with research into the knowledgebase of animal navigation.
BIO. I did my PhD on Sexual Dimorphism in the Visual System of Flies at the University of Sussex, England under the supervision of Mike Land and of Deszö Varjú, Chair of Biological Cybernetics, University of Tübingen, Germany, earning the degree in 1981. I then spent two years of postdoctoral time at the University of Tübingen, Germany, studying Swarming in Insects, followed by a Visiting Lectureship at the University of New South Wales, Australia, working with David & Renate Sandeman on Tactile Localization in Crayfish and with Hans-Ortwin & Gerbera Nalbach on Visual System Organization in Crabs. I returned to the Department of Biological Cybernetics, University of Tübingen, Germany in 1985 to a teaching and research position, where I became interested in Learning Flights and Homing in Wasps. Since Germany was unfortunate not to be able to accommodate me as an academic, I went to Kuwait University in 1993 as Associate Professor to teach. There I studied Why Oil Lakes Attract Water-seeking Animals and Homing in Fiddler Crabs. In 1995 I joined the Visual Sciences Group at ANU as a Centre for Visual Science Research Fellow and earned my present position in a Strategic Development Bid for Visual Ecology, which I co-authored with Johannes Zanker and Mandyam Srinivasan.
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