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Dr Eleanor Caves

Dr Eleanor Caves

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow

 Stella Turk Building G2.28


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


My research interests lie at the intersection of vision, behavioral ecology, and evolution. I am currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow working with Laura Kelley at University of Exeter's Penryn Campus. Please visit my research website for more detailed, up to date information!

My research projects are all united by my interests in how organisms perceive their visual world, and how that perception influences the evolution of signaling behaviors, signal form, and interactions with con- and hetero-specifics. I work on a wide range of taxonomic groups, from cleaner shrimp to zebra finches. At Exeter, my research will focus on size perception and assessment of signal magnitude using swordtail fish.


2018: PhD, Duke University (USA), Biology

2012: MPhil, University of Cambridge (UK), Zoology

2011: BA, Pomona College (USA)


2019-2021: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Exeter, PI: Dr. Laura Kelley

2018-2019: Post-doctoral associate, Duke University Biology Department, PI: Dr. Stephen Nowicki



Research interests

The ultimate goal of my research is to understand the perceptual worlds in which animals live, with a focus on animal vision. A perceptual experience (an “umwelt” as described by Jakob von Uexküll) is affected by both sensory physiology and higher-order processes: sensory systems filter information from the environment, which is then passed to the brain, where it may be further modified. However, we know little about how information from the sensory organs is processed in the brain in non-human animals, to result in behavioral outcomes.
I use animal behavior as a tool to understand perception, but my research also incorporates sensory physiology, sensory ecology, and receiver psychology. These fields are traditionally thought of separately, but they must all be considered to understand a perceptual experience. I use everything from model systems (zebra finches) to taxa not traditionally used for behavioral studies (Decapod shrimp), with room and potential to expand into other organismal groups. 

Research projects

My research focuses on different stages of perceptual processing that occur when animals perceive visual signals, with a focus on three areas:
(1) how the information in a signal is transduced and filtered by an animal’s visual system, with a focus on visual acuity
(2) how perceptual processing can impact perception of visual signals, with a focus on categorical perception and proportional processing
(3) signal perception and behavioral outcomes, with a focus on signals by which animals assess and recognize one another.


Supervision / Group

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