Friday, March 17, 2017

Grad Research: Vibrating Caterpillars

YadavPhD Biology student Chanchal Yadav and two grad alumni are in the news these days over their research.  Along with Professor Jayne Yack and a colleague from Brazil, they published a paper on how caterpillars use vibrations to attract nest mates.

Says Yadav:  “This research is the very first to demonstrate that caterpillars use vibrations to recruit other caterpillars of the same species.”

She notes that the researchers’ results have implications for pest management and conservation strategies.

Yadav got involved in the project “thanks to Dr. Jayne Yack and the fascinating world of caterpillar sociality that grabbed my interest in exploring the underlying mechanisms.”

Sarah Matheson, one of the alumni involved in the study, says: “After listening to these fascinating insects for hundreds of hours, it becomes obvious that the caterpillars are communicating a variety of complex signals to their nest mates. It is amazing what you can discover when you take the time to watch their group interactions and tune into their vibratory language. At first glance you would never guess that a caterpillar only a few millimeters in length would have so much to say!”

Matheson is now working as a fundraising consultant for the Planeterra Foundation, a non-profit that develops social enterprises to provide opportunities for marginalized women, at-risk youth, and under served communities.

Tiffany Timbers was the second alumna to work on this research. She is currently working as a Teaching and Learning Fellow at the University of British Columbia in the Master of Data Science program.

caterpillarsTo read what the New Scientist had to say about this research, and to hear sounds of the caterpillars scraping across a leaf, please click here:  https://www.newscientist.com/article/2122825-caterpillars-vibrate-anuses-to-send-food-and-shelter-alerts/

The research has been featured in several other publications including National Geographic and Science. The Discovery Channel also had a segment on March 1.

More information about the PhD in Biology at Carleton is available by clicking here.

Friday, March 17, 2017 in ,
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