College of Engineering

NUWC: UMD Seminar Presentation by Dr. Joy Lapseritis (NUWC)

Date(s): 3/13/2013 5:00 PM - 3/13/20136:00 PM
Location: Atmc
Contact: Lara Stone 508-999-8372

TOPIC: Morphological Analysis of Pinniped Vibrissae: Sensors seals Use for Navigation, Predator Avoidance, and Prey Tracking in the Deep, Dark Sea

Pinnipeds (e.g. seals) successfully navigate, avoid predators, and locate prey in low-light and aphotic waters, apparently without the aid of echolocation and minimal, if any, visual cues. Some seals have a unique vibrissa (whisker) morphology that differs markedly from other mammals - rather than tapering smoothly from base to tip, these vibrissae are “bumpy” along their lengths – whereas other pinniped vibrissae lack bumps. This study surveys the characteristics that contribute to the unique morphology and function of pinniped vibrissae, in relation to other factors of biological importance such as behavioral ecology. A bio-engineering approach is also employed to investigate how variation in vibrissae morphology contributes to whisker sensitivity and function, and whether nature’s “technology” can be mimicked effectively to develop new sensor systems.

Dr. Lapseritis earned her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. She earned her MA and BA in Biology and Marine Sciences from Smith College. Her previous work has spanned behavioral field studies, to molecular genetic and biochemical approaches for understanding toxicological responses in marine mammals. Currently, her research on sensory physiology has grown to encompass bio-mimetic engineering in hopes of applying tools refined by Nature towards the problems of human undersea endeavors. She is employed at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport RI as a project lead in the Environmental Division where she splits her time between basic research and environmental planning for the US Navy. Previously, Dr. Lapseritis was an assistant professor of biology at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

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