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Dr Natasha Mhatre

Dr Natasha Mhatre

Dr Natasha Mhatre

Area of research

The tympanal ears of insects: structural solutions to acoustic signal analysis.

+44 (0) 117 331 7322


Fellow of the College of Life Sciences, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin


Research interests

I'm interested in the structure-function interplay in sensory systems. I focus on insect auditory sensory systems which have evolved to extract relevant information from the noisy natural world. Auditory organs often use clever structural tricks for this purpose. I'm interested in understanding the structural mechanisms that allow this signal analysis. My current work involves hearing in crickets and locusts and the mechanical basis of acoustic signal analysis in their ears. I also work on sound production in crickets and its biomechanical basis.

My primary approach to solving problems is an interplay between modelling and experiments. I believe that well-specified models are very useful in biology, both in generating insights and in the development of sharp pointed experiments. My preferred approach is one of incremental modelling which allows us to discriminate between the features of a biological structure that are most crucial to its functioning (and hence interesting) and those that are 'spandrels'.

In the context of insect bioacoustics, I work on models that use explicit structural mechanics. I am very interested in the complex and varied geometry of insect acoustic structures. Previous modelling attempts have collapsed the complexity of biology into a few simplified analytical models and other purely mathematical models. The true complexity of geometry has always been ignored or simplified. My work aims to show that these are key to many of the unexplained phenomenon in insect bioacoustics.

I've also previously worked on how the ecology and the physiology of animals constrains their ability to orient using sound, an area I'm keen to continue to work and collaborate in.

Science and art

WordleIn addition to my research, I'm also quite interested in the communication of science, particularly in finding new and unusual ways to represent and disseminate scientific understanding. I'm currently exploring graphic text art as a way to represent scientific results. I'm also interested in the short story format and am using it as a tool to describe the biology of animals in a collection of short stories. I love photography and hope to continue it, having previously published a book of my urban wildlife photographs along with essays on evolution, ecology and conservation.


I got my first degree from the Life sciences department in St. Xavier's college in Bombay. I then moved to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore for my Masters. During this time I worked on some theoretical population genetic models briefly before moving on to the classification of proteins using structural information. In the course of this work, I contributed to two structural protein databases, PALI 1.3 and SUPFAM v2.1.

Around this time, I realised that I preferred work that was organismal and also work that married theoretical modelling approaches with actual experiments. I switched to working in animal behaviour for my PhD. Under the supervision of Rohini Balakrishnan, also at the Indian Institute of Science, I studied field crickets and their ability to acoustically orient in noisy and complex real-world acoustic conditions. I submitted my thesis and received my doctorate in 2008.

During this time, I started working on a collaborative project between my PhD supervisor and Daniel Robert here at the SoBS. We were investigating the effect of temperature on the mechanics of both the ears and the singing apparatus of tree crickets. Several interesting ideas grew out of this collaborative exchange and Daniel and I decided to apply for a post-doctoral fellowship so that we could work together. We will be investigating and modelling the mechanical behaviour of different insect tympanal ears of varying complexity in the course of this fellowship.


  • bioacoustics
  • insect hearing
  • insect audition
  • insect song production
  • biological modelling
  • finite element modeling
  • laser vibrometry



Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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