Dr Mortimer obtained a BA in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford before completing a PGCE teaching qualification. She then started her DPhil studies in Zoology within the Oxford Silk Group and Engineering Science Department. Her thesis focussed on how silk materials transmit vibrations and how this linked to their biological function. Her research aims to understand how animals use vibrations through materials as an information source, studying diverse animals from spiders to elephants. She has held a Career Development & Access Fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford, a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship (Universities of Bristol & Oxford), and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (University of Oxford). She was appointed as an Associate Professor in Animal Biology and Tutorial Fellow with Hertford College in 2022.
Beth lectures for the MBiol in Biology course arthropods, bioinspiration and animal behaviour. She gives undergraduate tutorials in zoology (1st years), statistics (2nd years) and animal behaviour & physiology (2nd and 3rd years).
Vibrations along surfaces are an important information source for animals and humans alike. Many animals, for example insects, spiders and elephants, are highly sensitive to surface vibrations and can efficiently determine what generated the vibration and from where. Understanding how animals use this information source so effectively can help us design useful technologies that use vibrations along surfaces for information.
The recent boom in robotic technologies means that robots and drones will soon be gathering information on our behalf. Detecting vibrations on surfaces therefore has many potential applications within robotics: from inspecting the safety of dangerous areas hit by earthquakes, to monitoring elephant behaviour and poaching risk, to checking for faulty machinery using swarms of drones. This expands our technological use of vibrations towards flexible and mobile surface vibration sensing.
My current research aims to understand how animals use vibrations as an information source, with projects studying this at different scales. I aim to understand how spiders, arguably the surface vibration experts of the animal kingdom, detect and use vibrations through their legs. Through studying spiders, I gain understanding that can be applied to other animals that sense these vibrations. I aim to use nature for inspiration to develop new types of sensors that will allow robots to use vibrations along surfaces for information. I also study how ground-based, or seismic vibrations can be used to monitor wildlife as an important tool, which can be used to answer questions such as how elephants communicate over long distances.