301 Biological Sciences Bldg
Durham, NC 27708
Originally trained in mathematics and art, I
have studied camouflage, signaling, and non-human visual modalities
for the last 25 years. I am particularly interested in vision
and camouflage in the open ocean, but have also worked on
coastal and terrestrial species, magnetoreception, nocturnal
illumination, and human cataracts. My research combines mathematical
analyses with behavioral and morphological studies and in
situ measurements and imaging. My field work primarily
involves open-ocean research cruises that use SCUBA and deep-sea
submersibles. In addition to exploring the evolution and diversity
of the optical and visual tricks that animals perform, I am
interested in improving communication between theoretical
and experimental scientists and between scientists and artists.
Outreach is a strong focus and my research has been presented
in numerous magazines, newspapers and television shows. In
my spare time, I am an avid nature photographer and amatuer
farmer (well, I own a tractor at least).
University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill: Ph.D., Biology, 1996
Dr. William M. Kier, advisor.
College: B.A. Mathematics, 1988
Sönke Johnsen, Justin Marshall and
Mark Hooper bluewater diving in the Bahamas.
self-interview in Current Biology
All my life, I never wanted to be a biologist.
After choosing a college solely on the fact that a family
store was in the same town, I began a major in Physics.
An Algebra professor who danced and told funny stories about
pathological geniuses convinced me to change my major to Mathematics.
I added a major in art, mostly abortive because I refused
to take art history, and left college disenchanted with education.
I then worked as a daycare provider and kindergarten
teacher for Quakers, a freelance carpenter, and a dance teacher
for three year olds. It was during this last job that I met
Sarah, the daughter of Scott
Gilbert, who wrote the developmental biology textbook
used by most colleges. After hitch-hiking across the Pacific
Northwest, I decided that I needed more education. A friend
and I went through the alphabet. Deciding that a career in
art was likely to be a raw deal, settled on Biology and met
with Scott Gilbert and Rachel
Merz. Rachel suggested good places to go to graduate school
and Scott got me a job with a friend of his, Stuart
Luckily, the job with Stu required
no knowledge of biology and several graduate schools admitted
me despite the same lack. I went to UNC,
and after a year of reading and drawing pictures of bugs on
the lawn, I decided that biology was "okay". With
little knowledge but high enthusiasm, I chose a high-risk,
low-benefit project that I left behind the moment I handed
in my thesis. My advisor, Bill
Kier, pointed me to oceanic zooplankton, we both thought
about transparency, and I applied to two oceanographic institutions,
both of which turned me down. I cleaned fish tanks for a year,
applied again, and both then accepted me. I went on my first
research cruise to the Gulf of Maine with Edie
Widder. It was stormy, the ship smelled, and I was seasick.
It was the best time of my life. Nineteen years later, I have
yet to look back.