Information is a central currency in living systems. Our work broadly centres on understanding the ebb and flow of information in the natural world, and its profound behavioural and evolutionary consequences for organisms, including humans. Some areas of enduring interest include:
All organisms need to gather and exchange information with the world at large, and we are broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms, causes and evolutionary consequences of this basic challenge. Current projects are focused on understanding how suites of traits coevolve to enable communication in ‘noisy’ natural environments, how the information encoded in diverse visual cues (colour, pattern, motion) is integrated to inform crucial decisions, and the vital role of communication in shaping local adaptation and survival amidst unpredictable environmental change. Recently we are also keen on using urban environments as novel testing grounds for theory, and understanding the consequences of the human modification of sensory landscapes. We enjoy testing and extending methods for analysing colour and vision in nature, as well as developing software that improves the accessibility of such tools.
Dis- and misinformation in nature
Deception and misinformation is rife in the natural world, including (and increasingly) among humans. Spiders pose as flowers to lure insects to their death, defenceless prey mimic the signals of the chemically defended to survive, and malicious or ill-informed actors stoke division via social media at unprecedented scale. We have an ongoing interest in misinformation, how it flows through biological and social networks, and its evolutionary consequences. The colour polymorphic lures of tropical spiders have proven a rich model in predator-prey deception, while flies present a window to sexual conflict, though many questions remain.
Pollinators in natural and managed systems
How do flower-visiting insects find, select, and remember floral resources? Can pollinators weigh information across modalities to overcome noise? What is the value of lesser-studied systems, like syrphid and muscid flies, to crop pollination? We are keen to understand the role of non-traditional insects as pollinators, from both fundamental and applied perspectives. Current projects span floral foraging and sensory ecology in flies and butterflies, and how cues across modalities reinforce and/or interfere to affect decision-making.