Office: BPB 412
Mailing Address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut
75 N. Eagleville Road
Storrs, CT 06269
M.S. University of South Florida, Integrative Biology, December 2008.
Thesis Advisor: Stephen Deban
Thesis Title: The Role of Abiotic And Biotic Factors In Suspension Feeding Mechanics Of Xenopus Tadpoles
My research lies primarily in the fields of vertebrate morphology, physiology and biomechanics. I am interested in the form and function of
animal movement, and how these principles change through ontgony and evolution. Generally, I focus my work on reptiles and amphibians, but I am open to
potential work outside of these systems.
Fluid Mechanics of Tongue Flicking in Snakes
Under the guidance of Kurt Schwenk, my dissertation is focused on the fluid mechanics
of tongue flicking in snakes. Snakes are well known for their forked tongues, and it has been proposed that this mechanism allows for detection of a
chemical gradient. Differing concentration of odor particles would provide individuals with the ability to determine the relative direction of the odor
source. However, snakes sample the environment for these odor cues by rapidly extending and oscillating the tongue. This has the potential to
obscure the odor source by inducing mixing of the air around the tongue. Enough turbulence will prevent the organism from determining directionality
of the source. Using high imaging and visualization techniques, I aim to describe the movement of air around the tongue of snakes during the tongue
flicking behavior, and determine if snakes possess the ability to discern direction. I also am investigating the potential effects of ecological,
morphological, and behavioral factors that may modulate tongue flicking.
Jumping in Plethodontid Salamanders
Plethodontidae, the lungless salamanders, is well studied for the myriad of unique behaviors and morphologies. Aposematic coloration, toxic skin
secretions, and ballistic tongue feeding are just some of the mechanisms under investigation around the world. My interest in this system is the
ability of these salamanders to propel themselves into the air. Unlike most jumpers, plethodontid salamanders don't possess large hindlimbs suited
for this task. Instead, it appears that these salamanders bend and rapidly straighten their torso, providing the momentum required for the jump.
In addition to describing this behavior, I'm interested in seeing (using EMG) how the axial musculature powers this ability, as well the role the
hind limbs do play in this matter.