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Dr Erica Morley

Sensory biophysics

I am interested in how insects detect and respond to sounds and electrostatic stimuli that occur within their environment. Previous behavioural experiments show that bumblebees are able to discriminate between flowers held at DC voltages at levels found in their natural habitats. The sensory mechanism used in detecting these terrestrial electrostatic fields, and the extent to which this novel cue is used by the bees in real world foraging situations is not yet certain. My current work attempts to understand how bees detect these fields and the relevance of electrostatic stimuli in ecologically relevant contexts.

I am also interested in bioacoustics. Insects can use sounds across a range of contexts, from courtship and mate location to predator evasion, and have evolved a variety of ear types to detect these stimuli. My work has focused on the mechanics of their auditory systems and the biophysics of the sound fields that these sensors are subjected to. Another aspect to my bioacoustics work involves investigating and assessing the impacts of anthropogenic (man-made) noise on wildlife. This is a problem that is pervasive throughout urbanised, industrial and high-traffic areas in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. 

Research keywords

  • Bioacoustics
  • Insect audition
  • Sound production
  • Drosophila melanogaster

Research methods

  • Laser vibrometry
  • Particle image velocimetry
  • Atomic force microscopy