Headshot of Elke K. Buschbeck

Elke K. Buschbeck

Associate Professor

1403A Crosley Tower


SBBE, Evolution of the insect visual and other sensory systems: Neuroethology, insect neurobiology, anatomy, physiology, optics, behavior, invertebrate systematics and evolution


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

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. More specifically my lab is interested in the eyes of two different insects: the twisted-wing insect Xenos peckii, and the larvae of the diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus and its relatives. Eye design is extensively influenced by the physical properties of light and the limits of optics. Therefore most animal eyes studied so far are variations of a few previously described types. However we are fortunate to have come across two organisms that have hardly been studied although they have eyes that diverge in fairly fundamental ways from known visual organs. This may be due to a complex evolutionary history as is likely for Strepsiptera, or to accommodate a specific visual need (such as accuracy in prey capture) as is the case for the diving beetle larvae. The objective of our studies is to determine why these eyes differ from known eye types, and how they function. In each case we are interested in the optics and neural organization of the system in regards to its function and mediated behaviors. In my lab we use a variety of techniques, including anatomy, immunohistochemistry, physiology, optical measurements and specific behavioral paradigms. Note that the study of behavior has become an important focus within our department. I only started my lab in fall of 2003, but since then a nice lab group has formed and I continue to be interested in enthusiastic and dedicated students. If you are interested in joining my lab as a student, please check out the two research project pages below. Those links will lead you to many images and several movies as well as to a list of potential projects that are currently available in my lab.

The visual system of predatory water beetle larvae

Chunk vision in the Twisted-wing insect

Research Support

Elke Buschbeck; Tiffany Cook, From Molecular Biology to Function: Comparative Development of lenses., University Research Council. Status: Denied.

(PI) Buschbeck, Elke, Function and Evolution of a Novel, Fundamentally Different Visual System in Dytiscid Diving Beetle Larvae., National Science Foundation. (IOB-0545978); $811,000.00. Date: 01/01/2006 to 03/31/2012. Status: Closed.

(PI) Buschbeck, Elke, The Functional Organization and Evolution of a Novel Insect Visual System, National Science Foundation. (IBN-0423963); $259,280.00. Date: 11/25/2003 to 08/31/2007. Status: Closed.

(PI) Buschbeck, Elke, The Functional Organization of an Eye with Bifocal Lens, National Science Foundation. (IOS-1050754); $399,998.00. Date: 06/01/2011 to 05/31/2014. Status: Active.

(Collaborator) Buschbeck, Elke; Rogers, Nancy; Vilinsky, Ilya, Molecular Genetics in Neurophysiology Laboratories, National Science Foundation. (DUE-1044643); $199,968.00. Date: 06/15/2011 to 05/31/2014. Status: Active.

Peer Reviewed Publications

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.

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

Book Chapters

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.

Invited Presentations

Elke Buschbeck (2011). Bifocal lenses, segregated retinas, and polarization sensitivity; the unusual eyes of diving beetle larvae. Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. Cornell University.

Elke Buschbeck (2011). Bifocal lenses, segregated retinas, and polarization sensitivity; the unusual eyes of diving beetle larvae. . Department of Biological Sciences. Wayne State University..

Elke Buschbeck (08-2012). The making of an eye: structural and functional diversity of stemmata. Meeting of the International Society of Neuroethology , University of Maryland, College Park.

Elke Buschbeck (09-2012). Molecuar genetics, biochemistry and microbiology. Weekly Seminar Series , Department of Molecular Genetics - UC.

Elke Buschbeck (11-2012). The making of an eye: structure and function of the highly specialized eyes of diving beetle larvae. The Visual Systems Group. UC, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Elke Buschbeck (07-2012). The bifocal lens of the sunburst diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus: Using a non-model organism to understand eye formation and function. Meeting of the International Society for Eye Research, Berlin, Germanny.

Elke Buschbeck (07-2012). The making of an eye: the highly specialized visual system of diving beetle larvae. Institute for Molecular Pathology, BioCenter Vienna .


Committee Chair, Graduate Admissions , .

Committee Member, Graduate Affairs, .

Committee Member, Neuroscience Grad program advisory committee, .

Biological Sciences Mentoring Committee of Dr. Dan Buchholz, .

Committee Member, National Science Foundation Integrative Organismal Systems, .

Committee Chair, Biological Sciences Faculty Search Committee for Physiology Position, .

Committee Chair, Biological Sciences Search Committee for Sensory Position, .

Courses Taught


15-NS-201, 15-NS-201 INTRO NS NEUROBIOL .



15-BIOL-686 BIOLOGY CAPSTONE section 32.

15 Biol 941 032, Library Research.


15 Biol 602 032, UIndergrad Research.

15 Bio 952 032, Grad Research.

15 Biol 603 032, Undergrad Research.

15 Biol 686 032, Biology Capstone.

15 Biol 953 032, Grad Research Biol.