AVA Awards Recipients Report - Cait Newport

Tom Troscianko Memorial Award

Tom Troscianko Memorial Award: Cait Newport (University of Queensland, Australia)

In August 2013, I was given the opportunity to travel from Australia to Germany thanks to the Tom Troscianko Award. For three weeks I visited a collaborator, Prof Matthias Franz, at the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz, Germany. Prof Franz’s research focuses on applying machine learning techniques to the field of visual cognition. During my visit, we discussed how to develop our general project ideas into concrete methods and ultimately decided on an experimental procedure for future studies. We used preliminary data I had previously collected from behavioural experiments with fish to test our ides. The most difficult part of this process was finding a method that allowed me to test the fish in a way they would understand but also give us the sort of data Prof Franz required for his analysis. The outcomes of this meeting have allowed me to design better experimental procedures for future experiments as well as allowed me to begin to analyse some pilot data previously collected. As this was my first visit to Germany I was also able to tour the sites and learn about the region. My hosts were very generous in showing me around, including taking me on their research boat around Lake Konstanz and introducing me to locally brewed wheat beer. In the final week of August I travelled to Bremen to attend the European Conference on Visual Perception. On the first day of the conference a series of workshops were run and I attended one on the theme of classification images. This topic was similar to what I had been learning in Konstanz and I found it very informative. At the conference, I presented a talk about my results showing that fish can discriminate large numbers of human faces. This is an interesting result because fish lack a cortex and it has sometimes been assumed that they have basic visual processing capabilities. The chance to describe my results to other researchers at the conference as well as learn about what research was being done in Europe was a fantastic opportunity and has been important in directing my research for my PhD project.