How to tell an X from an O? The algorithmic basis of pattern recognition in insect pollinators

Supervisor: Anna Stöckl

The Visual Neuroethology group headed by Dr. Anna Stöckl is recruiting a doctoral student to study the fascinating pattern recognition abilities of insect pollinators. Our lab recently moved to the University of Konstanz, to study how insects process information for flower selection and movement control. We approach these questions using a combination of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, quantitative behavioural methods and computational tools.


Project description:

To extract meaning from this text, you are currently using a central feature of your visual system: pattern recognition. A fundamental pillar of animal vision, in its most generalised form pattern recognition is invariant of the size, position, contrast or orientation of a pattern. While our brain dedicates many millions of neurons to this task, it is all the more astonishing that insects, with brains smaller than a grain of rice, recognise and memorise visual patterns as well. Some insect pollinators even share our ability to generalise pattern features. They provide ideal models to study the neural implementation of invariant pattern recognition in tiny brains.

In this project, the doctoral student will study the mechanisms underlying invariant pattern recognition in hawkmoths (Macroglossum stellatarum) and bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). Using quantitative behavioural experiments, they will dissect the parameter space of insect pattern vision and the strategies underlying it. Analysing the insects’ flight motifs in 3D will reveal how active vision contributes to pattern recognition. A close partnership with a complementary project on computational biorobotics will enable mechanistic insights into the pattern vision network beyond the possibilities in vivo. Integrated into an expanding group in the international environment at Konstanz University, this research project will pioneer our understanding of the algorithmic implementation of pattern recognition in insects.

Your profile:

  • Master sc. or equivalent in Biology, Neuroscience, Engineering or related fields
  • A strong interest in insect vision and neuroethology
  • Experience in behavioral experiments
  • Experience in programming and statistical analysis are preferable


The position: starting June 2023 (negotiable)

Main supervisor: Anna Stöckl

You will be part of an expanding research group, integrated into the international environment at the neurobiology department at Konstanz University, and benefit from our association with the Excellence Cluster for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour.

The University of Konstanz is an equal opportunity employer committed to provide employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability. They seek to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourage women to apply. For further information regarding the position, please contact Anna Stöckl.

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