The mechanisms by which animals sense the world can be so different from the way we sense our surroundings. Lydia Mäthger has studied various aspects of animal sensory ecology for over 20 years. She is particularly interested in animal vision and coloration and the intriguing relationships between structure and function. Lydia has worked on a variety of species, including cephalopods, fish, turtles and birds.
Animal eyes come in diverse shapes and sizes and the kind of visual information they provide is similarly diverse. One aspect that has fascinated Lydia in recent years are some of the complex pupil shapes that can be found in some aquatic and terrestrial animals, including skates and rays, cuttlefish and squid, geckos, goats, cows and horses.
When we think of animal colors, we tend to think of pigments but there are other ways in which coloration can be achieved. Some animals employ microscopic structures that are oriented, spaced or shaped in specific ways. While colorless themselves, these structures use the incoming light rays to create a colorful appearance. Considering the variety of camouflage and signaling needs animals have throughout their lives, it is perhaps not surprising that the repertoire of structures that animals make use of to create colors is similarly varied and complex.
Lydia Mäthger grew up in a village east of Berlin, Germany. She went to the UK for her undergraduate degree and PhD, followed by post-doctoral work in Australia before moving to the US, where she has been based since 2004. She regularly engages in outreach programs for local schools and summer camps to introduce children to the extraordinary world of animal sensory ecology. In her spare time, she enjoys writing for her two children (she published her first book in Germany earlier this year), she is an avid cyclist and owner of three dogs.
Presentation: Tuesday, October 25th