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Bee navigation

Andrew Straw receives a grant of nearly one million euros from the Volkswagen Foundation

Bee navigation

Andrew Straw | Photo: private

The Volkswagen Foundation is funding the work of biologist Professor Andrew Straw under its “Momentum” funding initiative, with each research team receiving almost one million euros over five years. Andrew Straw will use the funding to develop a high-resolution computer-based system that can track the flight behavior of bees in their natural environment.

How bees navigate their environment

Currently, there is no technology that allows researchers to observe insects in their natural environment with sufficiently high-resolution images. Laboratory studies have shown that in species such as bees, wasps and ants, the visual appearance of landmarks is important for memory-based navigation. Field studies have also shown that bees learn routes and visit the same flowers repeatedly, improving their memory over time. However, new technologies are needed to explore what such results mean for the animals' behavior in their real-world environment.

The goal is therefore to develop a computer-based bee tracking system for outdoor use and take it into the natural environment, explains Andrew Straw. “This system should be able to track bees in their natural habitat with millimeter and millisecond resolution over tens, hundreds and perhaps thousands of meters,” he says. He also plans to develop an exhibit that will educate children and adults about live bee tracking by showing trajectories and a simulation of the visual experience of flying bees, as well as other things.

Andrew Straw has been Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience and Animal Physiology at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Freiburg since January 2016. He is a member of the Bernstein Center Freiburg (BCF), the central facility for experimental and theoretical research in computational neuroscience and neurotechnology at the University of Freiburg. In 2012, he received a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his research on how flies process environmental information in their brains during flight and navigate their environment.

 

Contact:
Professor Dr. Andrew Straw
Institute of Biology I - Zoology
Faculty of Biology
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-67685

 

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