Vision underwater can be quite challenging. Visibility can be reduced due to, for instance, turbidity. In addition, the intensity and spectral composition of the ambient light can vary greatly with depth, between habitats, different seasons or different times of the day. I am interested in the adaptation of the visual systems of aquatic vertebrates to their underwater environment. Which kind of visual information is available to animals? How are they able to use this information for orientation, during foraging or to avoid predators?
In the course of my biology studies at the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, I specialised on sensory physiology and ethology.
During my diploma and PhD thesis, I had the unique opportunity to study the visual ecology of seals in the Sensory and Cognitive Ecology Group (Ruhr University of Bochum; since 2008 University of Rostock, Germany). My research was focused on colour and contrast vision, as well as visual cognition in order to analyse the importance of vision for tasks such as foraging and orientation in these semiaquatic mammals.
As a postdoctoral fellow in the Lund Vision Group, I am investigating the relevance of vision for the control of self-motion in aquatic animals, using fishes as model organisms. Animals - such as fish - that move freely through a three-dimensional fluid, are very likely to rely on vision for controlling self-motion. When a fish is moving along stationary objects in its environment, this movement produces a pattern of apparent motion across its retina, which is called optic flow. In a fluid with variable flows and streams against or with which an animal has to move, optic flow may provide much more reliable information about speed and direction of movement than egocentric cues alone. It is known that fish indeed use optic flow to prevent passive displacement while orienting themselves against a stream. I am now aiming at finding out if they also rely on optic flow for controlling their swimming speed, for avoiding obstacles and approaching targets.