Banner showing robot ants interacting with a beetroot that itself has robotic wheels and robotic arms. The image is repeated several times. Artistic image was AI generated via Adobe Firefly.

The Pavlic BEET Lab

Bringing Ecology and Engineering Together

Welcome to the Pavlic BEET Lab!

Circular logo around a grid of four top-down views of beetles where two are robotic beetles and two are realistic beetles. Around the grid is a light-green banner around the outside that reads "BEET Lab Engineers and Scientists" and "The BEETLES". Each of the four images were AI generated via Adobe Firefly.

In our lab, we recognize that there are much deeper connections between ecological and engineering thinking than traditional disciplinary silos formally represent, and we believe that both areas will benefit from bringing engineering and ecology closer together.

Although suites of technologies are now frequently referred to as “ecosystems”, designers, engineers, and computer scientists are not currently trained in ecosystem thinking. Engineers are trained to design general-purpose systems that are robust to environmental variation whereas ecologists, in contrast, specialize in complex interconnections where component function (or its limits) strongly depends on community composition and environmental context. As intelligent engineered systems are asked to perform in highly constrained and uncertain environments, engineering could benefit from ecological perspectives. Furthermore, the mathematical and computational tools that currently enable wireless communications, robotics and automation, power systems, and the Internet have been developed independently from biology, and there is tremendous potential for those engineering methods to provide novel perspectives for future ecological thinking.

The BEET lab considers a future where engineering and ecology are two sides of the same world view. In this vision, ecological frameworks are readily incorporated into strategic design of technology, and sophisticated mathematical and computational tools originally built for design problems influence the shape of hypotheses for how and why natural systems work the way they do. Although building concrete tools to enable biological analysis can certainly be a part of this vision, what lies at the core of this vision is the assumption that ecology and engineering should be overlapping schools of thought that have only avoided much interaction with each other due to unfortunate historical contingencies in academic organizational structure.

For more information, read about our interdisciplinary research vision, some of our research projects, related publications, and our lab members, alumni, and collaborators.

Recent Lab News and Posts

  • Wasp Deep Fakes at CV4Animals @ CVPR 2024
    Kacy Hatfield, a Media Arts and Sciences MS student co-advised by Dr. Pavan Turaga, presented her research on “wasp deep fakes” at the CV4Animals workshop during CVPR2024. This study, a collaboration with The Tibbetts Lab at the University of Michigan, uses generative models to animate wasp faces for research on individual recognition and social interactions among paper wasps.
  • A Lab Website is Born
    The Pavlic Lab, now known as the BEET Lab, has recently launched its website after a long delay. The lab’s focus extends beyond autonomy, encompassing augmented intelligence, decision support, and ecological engineering. The new identity reflects the holistic nature of the lab’s work, fostering excitement for future endeavors and blog updates.