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In 1959 Richard Feynman delivered the lecture, “There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom” in which he outlined the development of nanotechnology, and emphasized problems associated with information storage and retrieval. The observation of “plenty of room at the bottom” also applies to broad trends in the evolution of life on earth. The giant dragonflies of the Carboniferous, for example, gave rise to descendent species a small fraction of their size (e.g., the East Asian Nannophya with a wingspan of 20 mm), yet with their small brains modern dragonflies perform aerobatic maneuvers of incredible sophistication. Indeed the evolution of some major animal taxa today (e.g., insects and other arthropods) amounts to a long history of Research & Development in problems and solutions associated with miniaturization and microsystems, all dealing with information storage and retrieval at different levels of organization (e.g., genomic, neural).

To address questions that relate body size to brain size and behavior, STRI recently established a Laboratory for Behavior & Evolutionary Neurobiology (LBEN) that is directed by William Wcislo. In collaboration with STRI Staff Scientists studying behavior and evolution, three Research Fellows, John Douglass, Jeremy Niven, and Marc Seid are involved in a comparative research program to study the evolution of extreme brain miniaturization and its functional consequences for understanding complex behavior in arthropods, and its neurobiological bases.

The LBEN also provides modern neurobiological facilities to enable visiting researchers to address neurobiological questions involving anatomical, behavioural and electrophysiological techniques using the diverse animals available in a rich tropical setting. The LBEN also will host a series of workshops and small meetings in relevant areas of research. Modest financial support is available to visit STRI and the LBEN to explore possible collaborative projects relating to research themes at STRI and the LBEN. For additional information, please see Exploratory Awards. Graduate and postdoctoral support for working in the LBEN is available through STRI’s fellowship and program, as are opportunities for undergraduate student internships.