The study of camouflage needs to be interdisciplinary; Camo Lab, at University of Bristol, pulls together diverse skills and methods, and facilitates new approaches to major questions in biology, psychology and the vision sciences, broadly defined.
How colour patterns are generated and evolve is a core ‘evo-devo’ theme drawing on developmental biology, genetics, biochemistry and mathematics.
The challenge of understanding the selective forces shaping the evolution of the mechanisms generating camouflage is just as great, because the dominant factor is the perception of other individuals, of the same or different species.
So the evolutionary biologist needs to know about photoreceptors (comparative physiology, biochemistry, genetics), optics (physics), signal processing (engineering and computer science), and the mechanisms of perception (psychology, neuroscience).
The motivation comes not only from biology: how you 'break' camouflage revolves around some of the major issues in visual perception - target-background segmentation and feature binding - the same challenges that tax computer scientists working on image processing and artificial vision.
The need by humans and machines to detect, hide, classify, describe and make decisions about complex visual information is increasing dramatically across applications such as surveillance, safety, security, medical imaging and armed conflict.
Camo Lab provides the perfect environment in which to tackle these challenges. We come from the Behaviour and Sensory Biology Group in Biological Sciences, the Perception Group in Experimental Psychology and the Visual Information Lab in Engineering. Camo Lab is a key component of the Bristol Vision Institute (BVI), one of the University of Bristol’s core “research themes”, spanning human and animal vision, artificial vision systems, visual information processing and the creative arts. BVI is the largest inter-disciplinary grouping of its type in Europe, and is unique in both structure and breadth worldwide.