Professor of Biological Sciences
Animal navigation over long and short spatial scales has been well documented in an array of diverse taxonomic groups and involve a range of sensory receptors, complex neural networks and processing, and a variety of motor output strategies. I am specifically interested in how animals perceive and integrate magnetic field cues for spatial behaviors such as migration, homing, and magnetic alignment. Unlike sensory systems such as vision, olfaction, hearing, etc., the mechanism mediating an animal’s ability to perceive and integrate cues provided by the Earth’s magnetic field are poorly understood. Therefore, my dissertation work is focused on understanding the biophysical, molecular, and neural mechanisms underlying a variety of spatial behaviors influenced by magnetic cues. In order to uncouple the pathways mediating magnetic behaviors, I take advantage of magnetic responses exhibited by larval and adult Drosophila melanogaster, which provide the opportunity to genetically and molecularly ‘dissect’ components of magnetic behaviors on multiple biological scales.
I am currently working on magnetic orientation/reception of a variety of animals, including freshwater turtles, chicken embryos, crayfish, fly larvae, and mice.
The topic of my dissertation is spontaneous magnetic alignment in early development, using juvenile turtles, chicken embryos, and crayfish. Those study systems provide unique opportunities to study the development and mechanism of magnetoreception in a large variety of taxa.
Some of my former research projects included magnetic orientation of toads (master thesis about magnetic orientation in Bufo bufo - the common toad) and snail ecology (terrestrial and freshwater snails - in Austria, but also in Chile).