Young Lab Projects
The biomechanics of arboreal stability in primates
Primates are largely an arboreal (i.e., tree-living) radiation. Life in the trees, where one errant misstep could mean serious injury or even death, places a particularly high premium on stability. What are the specific anatomical and behavioral mechanisms primates employ to keep balance during arboreal locomotion? We use a variety of biomechanical techniques to address this question, including video-based 3D analyses of limb movements and sophisticated measurements of single-limb and whole-body force generation. In addition to addressing important questions of primate locomotor adaptation and evolution, this research may benefit society by providing basic data to advance the study of human balance and movement disorders.
Natural selection on growth and locomotor development in eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus)
The juvenile stage of life can be particularly perilous. Immature animals must accomplish the same basic survival functions as adults despite smaller body size and other growth-related limits on performance. Because, by definition, juveniles have yet to reproduce, we should expect strong selection for mechanisms that could potentially offset ontogenetic limits on performance, allowing individuals to reach reproductive adulthood and maintain fitness. The goal of this project is to combine measures of musculoskeletal growth, locomotor performance, and survivorship to explicitly test broad-scale hypotheses of natural selection on the growth and development of the mammalian locomotor system. Research will focus on free-ranging eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus). Eastern cottontails are independent of their mothers by three weeks of age and experience high predation pressure during the first year of life, making them an ideal model with which to address these questions.