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Colombia to Melbourne. For beetles. Why?

The newest member of our lab, Laura Ospina Rozo, joins us from Colombia, having been lured here by our new research direction: beetles. But why? Laura is beyond passionate about beetles, learning new techniques, and questioning everything, no matter how elaborate the rabbit hole is she’s sent down! In her own words:

MV_BeetleTray “Beetles… they are so pretty and shiny. We are so fascinated by the colors and patterns, that we tend to characterize all their properties as angle dependent color changing, metal appearance… amongst others. Actually beetles’ cuticle can also manipulate other features of light, they can reflect light in near infrared, or even polarize light to the right or left depending on their wavelength. Everytime I talk to people about this I get overexcited, because it just seems magic to me that only based on the organization of a few piled up layers of chitin, so many different results of light manipulation can be obtained by different species of beetles (or even individuals of the same species?). But everytime I get this answer: “oh that is super nice, why would they do that?” So, why is it better to be pretty, in nature? In their environment and daily life? Well, that is a difficult question to answer. But hopefully, during my PhD I will be combining different techniques to have some clues on why is it useful for beetles to manipulate light. I will basically use microscopy, biophysical modelling, and finally some behavioural assays, because that is the only way to directly “ask the beetle”. It is going to be an adventure!”

See? Passionate. She’ll find amazing things.