I study the physics of how organisms interact with their environments. My goal is to elucidate basic physical rules that can be applied to different kinds of organisms about how body structure affects mechanical function in nature. I combine techniques from fluid and solid mechanics with those from biology to do experiments in the field as well as in the laboratory. Using both organisms and physical models, I have studied a variety of problems: the fluid dynamics of how molecules are captured by olfactory antennae and how food particles are filtered from the water by aquatic animals, the mechanisms by which bottom-dwelling marine organisms withstand waves and currents, the evolution of aerodynamic performance in insects and gliding vertebrates, the dispersal of chemical cues and of larvae in turbulent aquatic habitats, and the mechanics of how shape changes are produced in soft-bodied animals and developing embryos. I investigate structure and function on several levels of organization: tissue, organismal, and environmental. I place a strong emphasis on field work as well as on laboratory experimentation.
Research Expertise and Interest
biomechanics, insects, invertebrate functional morphology, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, marine animals, filtration, gliding vertebrates