McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences

Biological Sciences

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Elke K. Buschbeck

Title: Professor
Office: 800Q Rieveschl Hall
Tel: 513-556-9747

SBBE, Evolution and development of arthropod visual systems: Neuroethology, insect neurobiology, physiology, optics, behavior, molecular biology, evolution


  • PhD, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Neurobiology).

Research Information

Research Interests

My research is driven by a deep interest in how other organisms perceive the world, and how their sensory systems have evolved to adjust to specific needs.  I am particularly interested in vision, since the nature of light makes it relatively easy to understand eye design, and almost all animal eyes follow a few, relatively well understood functional plans.  Once in a while though an eye is discovered that diverges fundamentally from known types.  I find that there is a lot to learn from the functional organization of such exceptional eyes. In addition we are interested in how highly specialized eyes develop, and how such eyes have evolved.


To read more about my research, please follow one of these links:
About unusual eyes
Meet current and former lab members
Read about the functional organization of T. marmoratus larval eyes
Read about our investigations into the development and evolution of larval eyes
Read about potential student projects

Research Support

  • (co-PI), Ilya Vilinsky PI; Elke Buschbeck co-PI , Molecular Genetics in Neurophysiology Laboratories , National Science Foundation. (DUE-1044643), $199,968. 06/15/2011 to 05/31/2015. Status: Active.
  • (PI), Buschbeck, Elke, The Functional Organization of an Eye with Bifocal Lens, National Science Foundation. (IOS-1050754), $399,998.00. 06/01/2011 to 05/31/2016. Status: Active.
  • (PI), Buschbeck, Elke, How development forms specific function: the highly unusual visual system of diving beetle larvae, National Science Foundation. (IOS-1456757), $600,000.00. 08/15/2015 to 07/31/2019. Status: Awarded.


Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Werner, S. and Buschbeck E.K. (2015) Rapid and step-wise eye growth in molting diving beetle larvae.  The Journal of Comparative Physiology. 201(11):1091-1102
  • Stowasser, A., Mohr, S., Buschbeck, E.K., and Vilinsky, I.,  (2015) Electrophysiology meets ecology: investigating how vision is tuned to the life style of an animal using electroretinography. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 13(3):A234-43
  • ​Bland, K., Revetta, N., Stowasser, A. and Buschbeck, E. K. (2014). Unilateral range finding in diving beetle larvae. Journal of Experimental Biology. 217:327-330. Featured in inside JEB.
  • Stowasser, A. and Buschbeck, E. K. (2014). Multitasking in an eye: How the unusual organization of the principal larval eyes of Thermonectus marmoratus allows for far and near vision and might aid in depth perception. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217:2509-2516.
  • Buschbeck, E. K. (2014). Escaping compound eye ancestry: the evolution of single-chamber eyes in holometabolous larvae. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217, 2818-2824.
  • Stowasser, A and Buschbeck E. K. (2014) How aquatic water-beetle larvae with small chambered eyes overcome challenges of hunting under water. The Journal of Comparative Physiology, 200:911–922.
    This article was chosen by the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Comparative Physiology A, Prof. Dr. Friedrich G. Barth, as the highlight article of November 2014 
  • Annette Stowasser and Elke K. Buschbeck (2012)  First elec­­trophysiological evidence for polarization sensitivity in camera like eyes of a predacious aquatic insect larva, Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae).  Journal of Experimental Biology. 215:3577-3586. 
  • Saima Riazuddin, Inna A. Belyantseva, Arnaud Giese, Kwanghyuk Lee, Artur A. Indzhykulian, Sri Pratima Nandamuri, Rizwan Yousaf, Ghanshyam P. Sinha, Sue Lee, David Terrell, Rashmi S. Hegde, Rana A. Ali, Saima Anwar, Paula B. Andrade-Elizondo, Asli Sirmaci, Leslie V. Parise, Sulman Basit, Abdul Wali, Muhammad Ayub, Muhammad Ansar, Wasim Ahmad, Shaheen N. Khan, Javed Akram, Mustafa Tekin, Sheikh Riazuddin, Tiffany Cook, Elke K. Buschbeck, Gregory I. Frolenkov, Suzanne M. Leal, Thomas B. Friedman, Zubair M. Ahmed (2012) ­­Mutations in CIB2, a calcium and integrin binding protein, cause Usher syndrome type 1J and nonsyndromic deafness DFNB48. Nature Genetics. 44: 1265-1271
  • Srdjan Maksimovic, John F. Layne, Elke K. Buschbeck (2011). Characterization of spectral and temporal properties of the Sunburst Diving Beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus) larva photoreceptor cells.  The Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 3524-3531.
  • N. Morgan RC EK. Buschbeck (2010) Retinal ultrastructure in the principle eyes may mediate polarization sensitivity in the first instar larva of the diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus (Insecta: Dytiscidae). Zoomorphology, 129(3): 141-152
  • Stowasser, A, A. Rapaport, JE. Layne, RC. Morgan, and EK Buschbeck (2010) Biological bifocal lenses with image separation. Current Biology appearing August 24th 2010 issue.
  • Maksimovic, Srdjan, Cook, Tiffany A, & Buschbeck, Elke K (2009). Spatial distribution of opsin-encoding mRNAs in the tiered larval retinas of the sunburst diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). The Journal of experimental biology, 212(Pt 23), 3781-94.
  • Buschbeck EK and M Hauser (2009) On the way to camera eyes: the visual system of male scale insects. Naturwissenschaften, 97(3):365-374
  • Buschbeck EK and M Friedrich (2008) Evolution of insect eyes: tales of ancient heritage, deconstruction, reconstruction, remodeling, and recycling. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 1:448-462.
  • Buschbeck, E.K., Sbita, S.J., & Morgan, R.C. (2007). Scanning behavior by larvae of the predacious diving beetle, Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) enlarges visual field prior to prey capture. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 193, 937-982.
  • Maksimovic, S., Layne, J.E., & Buschbeck, E.K. (2007). Behavioral evidence for within-eyelet resolution in twisted-winged insects (Strepsiptera). The Journal of Experimental Biology, 210, 2819-2828.
  • Sbita, S.J., Morgan, R.C., & Buschbeck, E.K. (2007). Eye and optic lobe metamorphosis in the sunburst diving beetle, Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae). Arthropod Structure and Development, 36, 449-462.
  • Mandapaka, K., Morgan, R.C., & Buschbeck, E.K. (2006). Twenty eight retinas but only twelve eyes; an anatomical analysis of the larval visual system of the diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus (Dytiscidae; Coleoptera). The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 497, 166-181.
  • Buschbeck, E.K. (2005). The compound lens eye of Strepsiptera: morphological development of larvae and pupae. Arthropod Structure and Development, 34(3), 315-326.
  • Buschbeck, E.K., & Hoy, R.R. (2005). The development of a long, coiled optic nerve in the stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis whitei. Cell and Tissue Research, 321(3), 491-504.
  • Buschbeck, E.K., Ehmer, B., & Hoy, R.R. (2003). The unusual visual system of the Strepsiptera: External eye and neuropils. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 189(8), 617-630.
  • Buschbeck, E. K., Roosevelt, J. L., Hoy, R. R. (2001). Eye stalks or no eye stalks: A structural comparison of pupal development in the stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis and in Drosophila. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 433(4), 486, 498.
  • Buschbeck, E. K. (2000). Neurobiological constraints and fly systematics: How different types of neural characters can contribute to a higher level dipteran phylogeny. Evolution, 54(3), 888, 898.
  • Buschbeck, EK., B. Ehmer and RR. Hoy (1999) Chunk versus point sampling: visual imaging in a small insect. Science 286:1178-1180.
  • Buschbeck, E. K., Hoy, R. R. (1998). Visual system of the stalk-eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis quinqueguttata (Diopsidae, Diptera): An anatomical investigation of unusual eyes. Journal of Neurobiology, 37(3), 449, 468.
  • Buschbeck, E. K., Strausfeld, N. J. (1997). The relevance of neural architecture to visual performance: Phylogenetic conservation and variation in dipteran visual systems. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 383(3), 282, 304.
  • Buschbeck, E. K., Strausfeld, N. J. (1996). Visual motion-detection circuits in flies: Small-field retinotopic elements responding to motion are evolutionarily conserved across taxa. Journal of Neuroscience, 16(15), 4563, 4578.

Book Chapter

  • Buschbeck EK (2009) Animal Eyes. In: Bruce Goldstein (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Perception. Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Buschbeck, E.K. (2008). Model Systems in Vision Research. In Panagiotis A. Tsonis (Eds.), Anatomical and Functional Diversity of Animal Eyes. Academic Press.
  • Strausfeld NJ, EK Buschbeck and RS Gomez (1995); The arthropod Mushroom Body: it's functional roles, evolutionary enigmas and mistaken identities. In: O. Breidbach and W. Kutsch (eds.) The nervous systems of invertebrates: an evolutionary and comparative approach. Birkhaeuser Verlag Basel / Switzerland.

Presentations & Lectures

Invited Presentations

  • Annette Stowasser and Elke Buschbeck (2015). Exploring distance cues that a highly unusual visual system could use to hunt under water HHMI – Janelia Farm Research Conference.
  • Elke Buschbeck, Shannon Werner and Annete Stowasser (2015). Rapid eye growth in the functionally complex diving beetle larval eyes. HHMI – Janelia Farm Research Conference.
  • Elke Buschbeck, Shannon Werner and Elke Buschbeck (2015). Rapid eye growth and opthalmoscope measurements of diving beetle larval eyes. Gordong Research Conference, Tuscany, Italy.
  • Aaron Stahl, Mark Charlton-Perkins, Tiffany Cook and Elke Buschbeck (2015). Cutilular origins of the Thermonectus marmoratus bifocal lens. Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vienna, Austria.

Experience & Service

Post Graduate training and Education

  • Research with Dr. Ron R Hoy, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


  • Research Director

Courses Taught

    Level: Undergraduate
    Term: 13FS

    Level: Graduate
    Term: 13FS

    Level: Undergraduate
    Term: 14FS

    Level: Undergraduate
    Comments: I co-taught this class with Dr. Ilya Vilinsky
    Term: 15FS

    Term: 15FS

    Term: 15FS

    Level: Graduate
    Term: 15FS

    Level: Graduate
    Term: 15FS

    Term: 15SS

    Term: 15SS