Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Research Interests

I have very broad research interests within the field of invertebrate zoology and have recently been involved in projects rating from conservation of landsnails in Bermuda, ecology of urban butterflies in Bangladesh and the use of black soldider flies as food and feed (entomophagy). However, my main research focuses on how behaviour in invertebrates, primarily orb spiders and their webs, is shaped by internal physiological and external environmental factors. In particular, I am interested in how behaviour in general and behavioural plasticity in particular has evolved to cope with the constraints imposed by a relatively limited brain capacity and with the biomechanical constraints imposed by environmental and morphological factors. I am particularly interested in how different species of orb spiders vary in their degree of behavioural plasticity depending on their macro- and microhabitat ranging from structurally complex and benign temperate habitats, via structurally complex and food rich tropical rain forests to the extreme conditions found in caves and other subterranean habitats. The goal is to increase our basic understanding of how small-brained animals use simple decision-making rules to perform emergent complex behaviours in interaction with their surrounding environment. In addition to its intrinsic biological interest, this line of research is of potential interest to designers of biologically inspired robots and other biomimetic technologies.

Thomas is currently a departmental lecturer at the Department for Continuing Education, where he acts as the director of studies in biological sciences for the public programme and as course co-director for the online postgraduate certificate in ecological survey techniques. In addition, he is senior research associative at the Jersey International Centre for Advanced Studies, where he teaches on the MSc in Island Biodiversity and Conservation.

Contact Details