Ethological Observations


by Fritz Francisco

Arriving as a graduate student in the last year of my PhD, the mind is used to focusing on specifics, not to be distracted or to waste precious time. Therefore providing an initial project based on my previous work seemed most promising, goal oriented and efficient. The idea was to implement object detection and automation to design an object/artifact with which animals could interact with. The goal was to study these interactions of animals with a novel object which could be manipulated.
After arriving in a place very distant from my research confinement some aspects already seemed less promising. Electricity was not readily available and internet access was not at all continuous, resulting in limited ability to test and research problems when these were encountered. Therefore, before getting frustrated about something as trivial as internet access the only sensible thing to do was spend time in the more rewarding ocean close by and, more importantly, doing this with others that could get equally excited about finding stuff on the beach or by sticking your head underwater. After seeing what amazing opportunities nature in the direct vicinity had to offer these outings became more regular with daily beach visits and nightly observations in the lagoon.   Being trained in aquatic biology and having worked as a scientific diver it is important to me to get close to nature and experience it directly in person. This lead to a transition from the initial idea to implement a project in which an object/artifact is created which was merely constructed from my previous experience and of interest to me solemnly to something more holistic. It was more important for me to participate in the community and assist where needs could be met, which is why I decided to give swimming and snorkeling lessons, which were further improved by assistance from other fellow experienced Dinosaurs and which was a ton of fun.
I think it is important to make things but also reflect on why we are making these things and what implementations these may have. Teaching is a form of making which can be hard to quantify or document but is as rewarding as any other. Therefore, my project turned from "I have an idea, I want to do this" into "let's swim better and stare at things for a little bit".

Each one, teach one

Fritz Francisco


Dates July 01 – 14


Previously I have worked on various aquatic animal systems, both in the field and in controlled laboratory environments, to better understand the mechanisms governing social interactions. Now I have joined the interdisciplinary cluster Science of Intelligence as part of the project on Dynamical Collective Adaptation & Learning to elucidate on the fact that animals are capable of continuously adapting to changing environments and novel situations. One way individuals are capable of doing so is by learning, a form of  inter- individual information transfer and knowledge accumulation. It enables an individual to understand its environment and  therefore minimize uncertainty about future situations. Using schooling fish (whose social and physical context as well as the previous experience and knowledge of each individual can easily be manipulated), my project addresses the topic of adaptation and learning in animal groups.

In my daily life I’m driven most by the combination of art, science and craftsmanship, which I try to implement wherever I can. A further aspect of focus dear to me is teaching and passing on information and coming up with new ideas and ways to interact with each other.

in vivo information gain

To me the best way to learn and study is by trial and error, which is why I especially like to move between the controlled lab space and the field environment, in order to test my ideas and gain robust insights. The project I want to approach while at Dinacon is a device with which wild animals can interact with. These interaction should be recorded (either via video or sensor output) and serve as quantifiable information about such naturalistic processes as play, exploration, creativity and problem solving in wild animals. I hope to achieve this by implementing some simple mechanisms which can be manipulated by the animals directly without receiving any reward other than information about the process. The mechanism is planned to be constructed by using raspberry pis, cameras, stepper motors, leds and microcontrollers.

I’m excited to join Dinacon this year as I have been following the work by this fantastic team over the last years and always thought this was a amazing platform for bringing people together in a constructive way!

Jasmine Gutbrod

Dates: July 7 – July 21 2022

Potential/probable projects:

-Mapping and movement with insects- studying and illustrating how bugs navigate and create

-Designing play structures with natural materials

Bio: I am an artist/designer/educator living in Providence, Rhode Island USA. I use she/her pronouns. I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with degrees in Furniture Design + Nature-Culture Sustainability and Art + Design Education. Right now I teach product design and scientific illustration classes, and in my studio practice I 3-D print things in clay and tend to my frog terrariums. One of my tangential projects is a booklet called Blueprints by Worms, which showcases how mealworms can digest Styrofoam. I’m super excited about the intersections of Art/Design/Biology/Learning/Community Engagement and excited to meet more interdisciplinary nature nerds at Dinacon!


Insta: @jasminegutbrod

me & my frog