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Insect Navigation Workshop

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Insect Navigation Workshop

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December 6 - 9, 2016
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This 3-day joint workshop of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and Janelia Research Campus is organized by Larry Abbott (Columbia University), David Eisenbud (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute) and Mimi Koehl (University of California, Berkeley).

Navigation in flies, mosquitos and ants is an interesting scientific problem that has considerable societal importance because of their role as disease vectors. This meeting will address two important aspects of navigation: 1) how are locations and orientations in space computed, represented and used in the insect brain, and 2) how do interactions between an organism and its environment affect its ability to navigate.

Recent advances in our understanding of the internal representation of orientation in the fly brain and of mechanisms used by mosquitos to locate prey are the inspiration for choosing this topic. A comprehensive picture of the internal computations that insects use to localize and orient themselves in space is beginning to develop.

Mosquitoes find their prey by tracking the plumes of carbon dioxide and water vapor they create in the atmosphere. This plume is an extremely complicated, nearly fractal object. Accounting for its structure, using fluid mechanics, and understanding how a creature might use the complicated information available to its senses as it flies through the plume is one of the interesting mathematical problems that we aim to address at the meeting.

The goal of the workshop is to bring together mathematicians, physicists and neuroscientists working on these aspects of the navigation to share the latest developments in the field. The meeting is aimed at fostering work that will synthesize the different pieces into a significant picture of the whole.

Since the meeting will involve researchers from different fields, the meeting will begin with introductory overview talks from the different areas, and then proceed to a series of research talks presenting the most recent findings. Plenty of time will be kept for discussions and informal interaction. A final session may bring together the “next” problems that may guide the further development and interaction of the fields represented.

Housing and meals will be provided to those accepted to attend the workshop. ​Some travel funding may be available. To apply to attend, please fill out the registration form here.


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