Jelle Atema

Professor Emeritus, Biology

PhD, University of Michigan
5 Cummington Mall, BRB 307

Our labs in Boston and Woods Hole focus on three seemingly disparate research areas: chemical ecology of lobsters, navigation in sharks, and dispersal in larval reef fishes. These efforts are linked by a common theme: understanding 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. Application of this research can be found in public education via magazine articles (e.g., New Scientist, New York Times), popular books (The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson) and TV programs (most recently: Daily Planet). Our work has contributed to lobster management and has impacted reef conservation and marine protected areas. The lobster and shark research on sensing has led to navigation algorithms for autonomous underwater vehicles (“robo-lobster”).

The lab’s Boston section studies lobsters and reef fishes involving graduate and undergraduate researchers in related areas: behavioral tests of senses involved in social interactions and the integration of multiple senses used in navigation. It includes a larval fish-rearing system and marine wet lab facilities to study lobster behavior. Undergraduate students use other animal models during a month-long course in sensory biology and subsequent independent research projects. The shark work is done in unique facilities in Woods Hole and collaborative research at the Mote Marine lab in Sarasota, FL. The reef fish work includes oceanography, population genetics, and sensory/behavioral analysis. The fieldwork is done at One Tree Island in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia involving an international team of scientists and in Belize in collaboration with Professor Pete Buston of our department at Boston University. All projects include student participation, from high school to PhD. The Sensory Biology course (BI 563) serves as a portal for undergraduate research involvement.

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