AVA Awards Recipients Report - Sarah Zylinski

Geoffrey J. Burton Memorial Award

The 2009 European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP) took place in the beautiful town of Regensburg in Germany over five blissfully sunny days in August. This was followed by an AVA Animal Vision satellite meeting held in a prime spot right by the town’s famous medieval stone bridge. I was able to attend both of these meetings thanks to the AVA Geoffrey J Burton memorial travel award, presenting a poster of an overview of my PhD research at the first, and giving a talk on fieldwork investigating signalling and camouflage in the giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) at the second.

Although human psychophysics heavy, the ECVP provided me with plenty of food for thought about approaching visual perception studies in my own study group, the cephalopods. The talks and poster sessions on visual search were particularly useful for experiments I was planning. Although a little out of place my poster received a lot of interest, and maybe caused some participants to pause to think about vision in nonhumans and the similarities we find in two groups separated by a huge evolutionary distance yet apparently finding common ways to solve visual processing problems.

I felt distinctly more amongst my own kind at the AVA Animal Vision meeting, which kicked off on the Friday evening with a rapidly constructed, yet extremely interesting, talk by Johannes Zanker on motion detection (who stepped in to cover Martin EgelHaaf’s absence) followed by a Danube river cruise. Much quality Bavarian beer was enjoyed as we watched the (aesthetically pleasing) sun set, followed by some very enthusiastic dancing by certain participants… The next day we had a packed program of wide-ranging great talks (many given by Ron Douglas after a number of his collaborators where down with swine flue). Highlights for me were Ron’s presentation on mirror optics in the deep sea spookfish, Dolichopteryx longipes, (standing in for Julian Partridge) and Jonny Turner’s talk on the use of red photophore light by deep sea fish. By the time it came to my talk I had mainly forgotten what I was going to say, and was as ever humbled by the great camouflage work of the Bristol group and the cool stuff Phil Casey and co have been working on with avian eggshell patterning.

The main business of the day was over far too quickly, but Tom Troscianko soon herded us out to the river-side where a barrel of more good beer awaited us. What can beat chatting about our respective animal vision research over a big glass of beer? I sadly had to leave as the group headed for a feast of local wurst to find a spot to pitch my tent for the night..

All-in-all I had a very enjoyable and useful week where I had a chance to catch up people I’d not seen for a while, make new contacts, and learn a little more of the endlessly fascinating work that’s going in the world of vision. I am indebted to the AVA for enabling me to attend and present at both of these events through the GJB award.