Jelle Atema

Professor of Biology
Adjunct Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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PhD, University of Michigan, 1969

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Professor Atema’s research interests include sensory biology, chemical signals, receptor physiology, animal behavior, behavioral ecology, chemical ecology and biomimetic robotics. As part of the Boston University Marine Program, Professor Atema has sought to  understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they use this information to make decisions leading to food and mates while avoiding… Read more

Professor Atema’s research interests include sensory biology, chemical signals, receptor physiology, animal behavior, behavioral ecology, chemical ecology and biomimetic robotics. As part of the Boston University Marine Program, Professor Atema has sought to  understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they use this information to make decisions leading to food and mates while avoiding danger, and how these decisions play out in population dynamics and evolution. His work has contributed to lobster management and impacts reef conservation and marine protected areas. The lobster and shark research on sensing has led to navigation algorithms for autonomous underwater vehicles (“robo-lobster”).

    In the Media

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    • Global Warming’s Toll on Coral Reefs: As if They’re ‘Ravaged by War’

      January 4, 2018

      The New York Times Jelle Atema Before we call rockfish, shrimp and crab “dinner,” some of these species call coral reefs “home”… Expert quote: “The effects of more frequent bleaching events were very difficult to predict because of the complex networks of dependencies within reefs. They could be devastating.” View full article

    • TSA’s claws encounter

      June 27, 2017

      Boston Herald quoting Jelle Atema, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “TSA agents clawing through luggage at Logan International Airport discovered a live 20-plus-pound lobster in what one marine biologist said is an amazing catch, because crustaceans that big don’t fit into traps…” Expert quote: “It’s totally crazy to take a lobster out […]

    • A giant lobster is caught in Bermuda. How common is that?

      October 20, 2016

      Christian Science Monitor Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Hurricane Nicole brought a gigantic surprise for two fishermen as it swept through Bermuda: A 14-pound lobster with two-feet long claws. Expert quote: “They keep on growing. You can end up with very, very large lobsters.” View full article

    • What scientists could learn from more than 25,000 ‘digitized’ fish species

      August 2, 2016

      Christian Science Monitor Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Adam Summers strives toward an unusual goal: to run every fish in the world through a scanner… Expert quote: “If you get a 3-D reconstruction, you can actually look through the animal and see the different components of varying tissue density.” View full article

    • ‘Kidnapped’ Leopard Sharks sniff their way back to shore

      January 9, 2016

      America Herald Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Leopard Sharks may navigate the ocean using their sharp sense of smell, according to a new study… View full article referencing expert Jelle Atema

    • Holes in a Bone: Flute or Fluke?

      August 30, 2015

      Discover Magazine Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Many experts believe an approximately 45,000-year-old bear femur could be a flute — the oldest known musical instrument… Expert quote: “One cannot dismiss this intriguing bone as a flute. But we can never be sure it was used as such. We were not there.” View full […]

    • Fish Smell Like the Coral They Eat—Disguise Is New to Science

      December 9, 2014

      National Geographic Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Now this is one fish that would beat you in a game of hide-and-seek. New research shows coral-dwelling filefish camouflage themselves by not only looking, but alsosmelling like their prey… Expert quote: “It’s a clever study design and a nice contribution to the literature on chemical camouflage. They showed […]

    • Baby corals and fish smell their way to the best home

      August 21, 2014

      Science Magazine Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences You know the story: Kids leave home to explore the world, eventually settling down in the greenest pastures they can find. But when these restless youngsters are baby fish and coral larvae, how do they choose the best place to make their new home?… Expert quote: […]

    • Scientists say sharks have much to teach us

      August 15, 2014

      Florida Today Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences They rarely get cancer. Their wounds heal much faster than humans’. Their unique skin makes for a low-drag glide through the water that engineers envy. Scientists say sharks have much to teach us: from how we treat illnesses to how to make better ships, undersea robots […]

    • Study Shows Sharks Combine All Their Senses to Hunt

      April 3, 2014

      Latin Post Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences A first-of-its-kind study of how sharks hunt has found the long-feared fish are truly complete predators, using all of their senses in an array of different combinations and ways… Expert quote: “This is landmark work. Back in 1985, world experts in underwater animal senses met at Mote, […]

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