Last week I was excited to be invited to a symposium on iridescence organised by the Rank Prize Fund. There were 31 scientists present, spanning everything from physics and engineering to behavioural ecology. It was nice to see our research placed in this broader context and also right in the middle of this spectrum, linking the ecology and evolution to functional questions about how iridescent colours are made. Some of the work most similar to ours in this respect is being done in plants by Beverly Glover’s group in Cambridge and Heather Whitney’s group in Bristol. Talk highlights for me came from Heather and Trevor Wardill, who showed that both plants and squid respectively can dynamically change their iridescence by moving sub-cellular organelles (iridoplasts in the case of plants and iridophores in the case of squid). In both cases, how and why they do this is still a bit of a mystery.
The location of the meeting was also superb, Grasmere in the Lake District, and the weather even held up for us enough to go for a short walk up the hill behind the hotel.