We study how animals use odors to locate mates, food, etc. We have years of experience studying how flying insects orient to odors, and since our arrival at Case in 2001 we have expanded into studies of how insects orient to odors while walking.
We have begun comparative studies to understand how flying and walking organisms use similar information in different behavioral and environmental contexts to perform the same odor tracking task. The animals that we use to study these questions are the Tobacco hornworm moth, Manduca sexta and the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. When it becomes difficult to ask clean questions using animal behavior experiments we are also using simulation modeling and mobile robots (hardware models) to test our ideas about how animals track odors through a complex environment.
Additional research interests are in how the animals’ nervous systems process and use multiple types of information to generate and control their behaviors. Since Manduca sexta are large moths and superb fliers, we are able to record from their flight muscles while they are flying in order to begin to understand how the central nervous system controls flight.
Over the years we have been supported by the NSF and DARPA, and are currently supported by the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Research Laboratories.