My lab is interested in evolutionary and comparative biomechanics.
We use biomechanics and comparative physiology/anatomy to understand how animal behaviour and evolutionary processes are constrained by functional morphology. Our research program has three central objectives.
First, to understand the developmental flexibility of vertebrates over ontological time scales. Environmental conditions change and animals are forced to change with them. Our research focuses on how environmental conditions throughout ontogeny can affect an animal’s functional morphology and behaviour. Biomechanical metrics help quantify to what degree a species is able to adapt behaviourally to environmental changes. Understanding the developmental flexibility of animals to their environments may clarify some of the epigenetic influences on adaptation and evolution.
Second, to understand short term behavioural and biomechanical compensation of animals under extreme conditions. Engineers build things with a safety factor; an elevator is rated for a given carrying weight but the actual carrying capacity of the cables lifting the elevator is far greater to ensure they don’t break. Our research applies the concept of safety factor to animal behaviour. Animals have evolved under particular pressures to accommodate particular biomechanics. We are interested in assessing the safety factors built into behavioural biomechanics and how they are tested when environments change. This measure of flexibility may then be incorporated into models of how short term or sudden environmental changes affect animal behaviour and ecosystem dynamics.
Third, to collaborate with engineers and ecologists and apply experimental biomechanical data from living animals to biomimetic robotic systems and ecological and evolutionary models. This nexus presents a unique opportunity to integrate several fields of biology, including physiology, modeling theory, ecology and environmental biology with implications for pure science theory and applied management policies.