Chennai Mathematical Institute


3:30 pm, Seminar Hall
Naturalist-inspired Chemical Ecology: From Insect Dreams to Virtual Reality

Shannon B Olsson
NCBS, Bangalore.


One of the most important tasks for any organism is to identify objects in the world around them. All organisms must, for example, discriminate what to eat from what might eat them. Identifying complex objects in an even more complex world is a difficult task, and lies at the heart of understanding how a brain makes sense of the world. Our group is interested in how animals, and especially insects, identify objects across different environments, and how they can detect new introduced objects in an environment, such as invasive species. Our work traverses Himalayan meadows, ecologically sustainable agriculture in coffee plantations, and pollution in Bangalore - anywhere insects are important, which is nearly everywhere on Earth. We take field trips, record neurons, track genomes, generate models, and even employ virtual reality to learn how animals identify their objects of affection in nature. Most importantly, we believe that understanding how animals make decisions can help us to understand ourselves, and also help us to live not just in, but with the natural world around us.