Bats

Echolocating bats fly around in darkness emitting ultrasonic sounds and listening for the echoes that return from things like tasty insects flying nearby. The bats use the echo information to locate the insects and chase them with breathtaking high speed maneuvers.

I was interested in knowing what kind of computations the bat’s brain may be doing in order to turn sensory information into a flight strategy. I designed and built apparatus to measure the sonar beam patterns of flying bats. I made observations of bat flight behavior and mathematically modeled the flight strategies they use to capture insects. I showed how the bat’s acoustic gaze (where it directs its sonar beam) is related to its flight pattern and may be used to gain insight into what the bat is planning. I also showed how the bat optimizes its flight strategy to chase unpredictably moving insects in order to improve its chances of a quick, successful capture.

In addition to formal scientific papers, I also wrote two informal essays on my work with bats. I wrote this essay on invitation for Imagine magazine and this essay on invitation for the Intentional Society for Neuroethology newsletter.

This work was done under the mentorship of  Profs. Cynthia F. Moss, Timothy K. Horiuchi and P.S. Krishnaprasad

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