Beth is an Associate Professor in Animal Biology and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the Department of Biology, University of Oxford. She has previously held a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship at the Universities of Bristol and Oxford. Her PhD was within the Oxford Silk Group, supervised across the Zoology & Engineering Science Departments.

Sensing surface vibrations: From spiders to robots

Surface vibrations are a ubiquitous source of information for many animals, including many insects and spiders. Travelling through and along solid materials, many animals use these vibrations to gather information about their environment and each other. The information source is rich, with animals specialising in localisation and discrimination of vibration sources, from finding small prey items, to discriminating between potential mates during courtship. Key challenges for animals are to filter vibrational information from background noise – a process that is influenced by the external environment, the physical properties of the animal’s body and the physiology of the animal. This talk will focus on how animals can influence surface vibrations as they propagate from source to sensor. For spiders and insects, vibrations propagate from a surface to sensors embedded in their legs. Therefore body morphology and physical properties shape vibrational information before sensory transduction, where morphological computation could play an adaptive role. The talk will finish with a discussion of how robotic systems could benefit from sensing surface vibrations, and how it could be implemented by learning from nature.