Dr. Koehl's lecture abstract: Odors are dispersed in the environment by turbulent wind or water currents. The first step in smelling is capture of odor molecules from the surrounding fluid. Many marine animals such as lobsters and crabs capture scents using olfactory antennules bearing arrays of chemosensory hairs. We are studying the fluid mechanics of how antennae can “sniff” and capture snapshots of the fine-scale spatio-temporal information in complex odor plumes.
MIMI KOEHL is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the physics of how organisms interact with their environments, and how body structure affects mechanical function in nature. She does both field research and lab experiments to study a variety of problems: how bottom-dwelling marine organisms withstand waves and currents, and how their microscopic larvae (which are dispersed by moving water) manage to land in the right habitats; how odor molecules are dispersed in natural environments and are intercepted by olfactory antennae; how food particles are captured by aquatic animals; how flight evolved; and how shape changes are produced in soft-bodied animals and developing embryos. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Other honors include the Borelli Award (American Society of Biomechanics), Rachel Carson Award (American Geophysical Union), and Presidential Young Investigator Award. She is the heroine of a children’s book, Nature’s Machines (part of NAS series to interest kids in science), and she has recently published a book for the lay reader about the physics of marine organisms, Wave-Swept Shore. See http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/koehl