Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What could one do with 250 000 SEK? A stepping stone towards a thermal image camera

Well, today I found out that I was awarded 250 000 SEK from The Crafoord Foundation, which is for an application I did send in this winter to buy a thermal image camera. This type of camera does of course cost more (around 400 000), but it is at least a start, and hopefully more money from other funding sources will come in so that I can eventually buy it to my research laboratory.

As some of you already know, I am interested in thermal image camera as a novel tool to quantify insect thermoregulation, and relate such variation to other interesting things, such as genotypes, phenotypes (e. g. wing colouration patterns), species or heritable colour morphs.

One recent scientific application where such an IR-camera has been used has been to look at differences between pygmy phenotypes in humans and normal-sized people (see picture above). One of the hypotheses for the evolution of small stature in many populations of humans inhabiting rainforest environments across the globe (Asia, Africa, South America) has been that short men and women do not have as much trouble with excess heat as tall men and women. This thermoregulation hypothesis, as well as other adaptive hypotheses for the evolution of the pygmy phenotype was recently discussed in a TREE-review by Perry and Dominier.

Back to the Crafoord Foundation. Although I am somewhat disappointed that I did not get the full amount I applied for, I am definitely happy that my hard-working scientific "Animal Ecology"-colleagues Staffan Bensch, Anders Hedenström and Susanne Åkesson also got grants from Crafoord. Money is not everything in research. But with money one can (sometimes!) do good research.


  1. congratulations Erik, i hope you will manage to buy it in the end... two questions for a novice:
    does such a camera can enable one to measure energy expenditure and BMR for example? the other is more organism-specific: can it be used on aquatic organisms such as isopods?

  2. Fabrice,

    No, BMR (metabolic rate) is measured by different devices (respirometry), this device measures not internal physiological processes, but external (heat loss). I have no idéa if it would work on aquatic organisms, but it does not work through water, so one has to measure them in the air.

  3. well i thought it might have been interesting to compare BMR between isopod ecotypes at some point, as they dont behave or swim in the same way, but the thermal camera won't help then... still exciting though, as for species such as c.splendens and c.virgo, melanization might come at a cost, and you probably have in mind to compare the two species in that regard and maybe look at their habitat-use etc.
    the pygmy example is amazing, i agree...

  4. Hi Erik,

    Congratulations-great news about the money. The thermal imaging camera will be a nice add-on to our lab, and should allow us to quantify the effect of colour (among other things) on the heating up rate etc. of different phenotypes (Ischnura elegans, but also Caloperyx splendens and C. virgo). Fantastic news that you got the grant!!

    Cheers, Maren

  5. Congrats Erik!!!! You are now a physiological quantitative genetic ecological evolutionist.

  6. Congratulartions erik! Yes, what can you do with 250 ksek. Buy the camera without a lens or vice versa? This is an example of the fuzzy logic applied by some grant giving agencies, particularly when one applies for a well defined piece of equipment (i.e. camera). I guess they rely on the general gravitational law of money.
    Cheers, Anders

  7. Anders;

    Yes, you should know about the gravitational law of money more than I, given that you have bought much more expensive equipment and fun "toys" than I have. I have to rely on your general instincts here.

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  9. That is great Erik, congrats. Looks like 2008, your annus horribilis, is long forgotten in 2009 with a new post doc, publications piling up and lots of grant money.

    Following from Shawn, the next step is deciding what area you want to conquer next, paleontology?

    I was wondering how much does the IR cost to rent?

  10. Tom:

    Paleontology, that is!!!! Actually, I think the fossilized wings of odonates seem fascinating, and we are already working on geometric morphometrics on extant species. Right Shawn?

    The IR-camera costs 30 000 per month to rent, i. e. 60 000 for two months. However, they will deduct that amount from the total cost, when I will buy it.