About Mary Caswell Stoddard's Work
My group investigates the evolution of animal coloration and morphology. What processes contribute to the extraordinary diversity of phenotypic traits in nature? We focus on birds – the most colorful terrestrial vertebrates. A fundamental challenge is that birds see differently from humans: they have tetrachromatic vision (four color cones) and ultraviolet sensitivity. To estimate a “bird’s-eye view,” we developed new computational models of avian pattern and color perception. To test these models in the field, we are establishing a system for studying perception in wild hummingbirds in the Rocky Mountains. In the lab, we are designing the first UV-sensitive “bird-vision” hyperspectral camera, a technology that could transform quantitative analysis of animal color. We also investigate the avian egg, a remarkable structure that is built to break. We apply a highly interdisciplinary approach, combining tools from math, computer vision and bioengineering, to explore the avian world.