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My research group studies insect physiology and behavior, with a particular focus on long-distance dispersal in flying fruit flies. The tiny fruit fly, though not typically heralded as a navigator, has an extraordinary capacity to maintain a constant heading for tens of kilometers in an extended flight. This long-distance dispersal is of enormous agricultural concern, both in the Pacific Northwest and worldwide, as some fruit fly species are potent crop pests. My group seeks to understand how fruit flies choose a flight heading, the sensory cues they use to maintain their course, and what factors influence variability across individuals. This work will provide a basis for effective pest management as well as fundamental knowledge about animal navigation. Our approach involves both laboratory experiments using custom flight simulators that enable real-time tracking as well as field experiments that study dispersal at a landscape scale.
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The REEU student will conduct analysis of behavioral data of continuous flight orientation of the spotted-wing fruit fly, an agricultural pest. The student will develop a capacity for Python programming, as well as time-series analysis. Furthermore, the student will learn to query and manipulate large data sets via Unix shell commands. There may be additional opportunities to conduct laboratory experiments with flying flies. These experiments would provide students the opportunity to use Arduino devices and the ROS programming environment for real-time experimental control.