My research career began at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia with degrees in both Science (majoring in Neuroscience) and Arts (with majors in Anthropology and Social and Political Theory). During this time I became interested in understanding the neural basis of behaviour and decided to continue research in this field with a Neuroscience Honours degree (one year full time research). This is when I began working at the Centre for Visual Science with Prof. Mandyam Srinivasan and Dr Shaowu Zhang (both my Honours and PhD supervisors), who introduced me into the wonderful world of visual flight control in the honeybee. My honours project (2003) focussed on how honeybees use vision to control flight speed. This work was extended when I began my PhD in the same lab. During my PhD (from 2004 – 2007), I looked at how honeybees use vision to control their height above the ground, as well as how they regulate flight speed when landing. After finishing my PhD in 2007, I spent six months as a post-doctoral researcher working with Prof. Martin Egelhaaf at the University of Bielefeld in Germany. Here I developed techniques to investigate and record the strategies that honeybees use when learning about landmarks. I joined the Lund Vision Group as a post-doctoral researcher in 2008 and currently hold a position of Assistant Professor.
I am interested in investigating the strategies that flying insects use to extract information from the visual scene in order to control flight and to navigate in complex environments. Despite possessing a brain that weighs less than a milligram and contains fewer than one million neurons, flying insects are able to process with extraordinary accuracy the complex sensory information that is necessary for achieving stable flight. Insects overcome the limitations of their small brain by employing a range of computationally simple techniques to aid flight control and navigation. By studying the mechanisms of flight control in insects, it is possible to gain some insight into how a small and relatively simple brain can achieve the high level of sophistication that is necessary for stable flight and navigation. Interest in the flight control strategies of insects has expanded rapidly in recent times as engineers seek to develop computationally simple visual guidance systems for applications in autonomous aerial vehicles. The elegant flight control strategies employed by insects not only reveal how a simple brain can extract and apply information from the visual scene to control flight. They also suggest novel, biologically-inspired ways, for understanding how these tasks can be achieved in autonomous flying vehicles.
Through my current research I will continue to investigate the mechanisms of visual flight control in a diverse array of insects, from bumblebees and butterflies to beetles and moths.