From the usually unseen microscopic intricacy of a butterfly wing forming in its caterpillar’s cocoon to the hairs on the eyes of a bumblebee, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma loves to investigate worlds that “exist kind of at the edge of our perceptual abilities,” he says. “It’s not necessarily that an insect is a more interesting subject than a bird or a fish or elephant, but photographing it has a special kind of reward: You get to see something that your eye couldn’t see before.” This Sunday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Varma will join bat expert Rodrigo Medellín in a UCSB Arts & Lectures presentation titled Beauty and the Bizarre: Hummingbirds, Bees, Bats and Zombie Parasites. Varma and Medellín will discuss their work studying bats in Mexico, and Varma will discuss other aspects of the world around us too small, too fast, or too slow for the human eye. Medellín, Varma says, is so enthusiastic about bats he can “make you fall in love with this subject.”
Varma will share his enthusiasm for parasites to the audience, which was actually inspired by a UCSB graduate friend who encouraged his pursuit of parasite research. Varma’s very favorite lives in the waters off UCSB: a barnacle parasite that infects sheep crabs by feminizing the male hosts and laying eggs in them. “All of these parasites have blown my mind in a different way in terms of their ability to shape the bodies and minds of their hosts,” he said. “But that story as a whole kind of changed how I thought about the world.”
Witness what he and Medellín have seen beyond the ordinary eye, and prepare to have your mind blown, too.
Beauty and the Bizarre: Hummingbirds, Bees, Bats and Zombie Parasites is at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Sunday, March 5, at 3 p.m. Call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.