Research Interests

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There is a vast amount of morphological, behavioral, and functional variation in vertebrate locomotor systems, and I am interested in how various morphologies and behaviors are related to the performance and function of these systems. I am applying this framework to my investigations of lizard subdigital adhesive pads. Gekkonid and Anolis lizards have independently evolved fibrillar adhesive structures, but the morphology of these structures are quite different for these taxa. Anoles have single fibers equipped with one triangular-shaped contact point, while geckos have branched, hierarchical fibers terminating in hundreds to thousands of smaller triangular-shaped contacts. There appears to be microscale variation in the morphological properties of these structures both within and between individuals and species of geckos and anoles, but it is unclear how this morphological variation affects performance or particular attributes of the gecko adhesive system (e.g., adhesion to rough substrates, self-cleaning, etc.). Furthermore, it is currently unclear whether variation in performance of these systems is at all related to behavioral choices these lizards make in artificial or natural habitats. I plan to investigate these topics utilizing both micro-scale (e.g., scanning electron microscopy, optical profilometry) and macro-scale measurements (e.g., adhesive and locomotor performance, behavioral assays) in both laboratory and ecologically relevant conditions. Beyond researching these themes in a biological context, I am interested in applying this information to the design and fabrication of gecko-inspired synthetic adhesives that can operate under a variety of environmental conditions.

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