What makes turtle shells so resilient against attacks? The secret may be skin deep!
In my latest Outside JEB article, I report on a recent paper by Shelef and Bar-On that describes how the shock-absorbing properties of the skin absorb the energy of impacts and reduce damage to the underlying bone that provides the structural integrity for the shell. Read more about their work here: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/220/9/1545.2?etoc
Thank you to the Cal State Long Beach Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for awarding my lab with an Internal Research Grant to continue studies on the locomotor biomechanics of amphibious African mudskippers (Periophthalmus barbarus)! I will be looking to recruit students who could commit to assisting with this project for the 2017 - 2018 academic year and will be distributing a formal recruitment flyer in the next several months, so stay tuned for more!
It's February Fish Frenzy!
New collaborative paper on morphological selection in Hawaiian waterfall-climbing fish has been accepted into Evolutionary Ecology!
Also, my Outside JEB article has been published online: jeb.biologists.org/content/220/3/332?etoc. In this review, I cover a recent paper by Wicaksono and colleagues on the ability of mudskipper fishes to climb up trees and rocks with their fins.
I am currently accepting applications for the Master’s in Biology program at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), and am seeking highly motivated students who are broadly interested in addressing research questions related to the functional morphology, biomechanics, and comparative physiology of vertebrates in ecological and evolutionary contexts. Briefly, my lab investigates the origins and maintenance of phenotypic diversity by applying biomechanics, engineering, and physiology as explanatory tools to explain how musculoskeletal design drives whole-organism performance in different environments. I am particularly eager to recruit graduate students with an interest in studying the locomotor biomechanics of amphibious fishes and salamanders. Research projects will integrate empirical and theoretical approaches, computer programming (primarily in R), and have the potential to incorporate museum collections or field work. Fishes and amphibians are the preferred study taxa, but other systems may be considered if the research question is a good fit for the lab. Please refer to my website to learn more about common research themes in my lab and other information for prospective students: http://sandykawano.weebly.com/lab.html
The deadline to apply to the CSULB Master’s program is March 15, 2017, but those received before February 15, 2017 may be eligible for additional financial assistance. Stipends are available as Graduate Assistantships and Teaching Assistantships through the Department.
Students must receive sponsorship from a faculty member in order to be accepted into the Master’s program at CSULB, so prospective graduate students are strongly encouraged to contact me prior to applying. Inquiries should include:
Please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any additional questions.
Looking for a post-doctoral position and have no idea how to get started?
The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has published some of my advice on obtaining a post-doctoral position in the 2016 Fall newsletter for the Division of Comparative Biomechanics: http://sicb.org/newsletters/nl11-2016/DCB.pdf. The article starts on page 3, and includes some general guidelines about post-doctoral options. The information included in this article are an extension of the advice and experience that my colleagues and I have acquired over the years and are, by no means, an exhaustive list. The information is general enough that it should be applicable to a range of early career researchers in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology.
I hope others find the information useful!
Tail use improves performance on soft substrates in models of early vertebrate land locomotors
Video 1. Example of a 'crutching' mudskipper, from one of my previously published papers (Kawano and Blob 2013).
Video 2. Mudskipper moving on sand at an incline of 20 degrees, from McInroe et al. (2016) Supplementary video 2.
Figure 1. MuddyBot! Our mudskipper-inspired robot that was developed by my collaborators at Georgia Tech (crablab.gatech.edu/)
I teamed up with researchers from Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, and Clemson University to gain new insights into how vertebrate animals overcome the challenge of moving on difficult terrain, such as soft substrates. Specifically, we focused on vertebrate animals that "crutch" to move around, meaning that they use synchronous movements of their appendages to move forward in a similar fashion that a person might use crutches (hence the term 'crutching'). See Video 1 above for an example of a 'crutching' mudskipper from one of my recent papers (Kawano and Blob 2013). The reason we chose a crutching animal is because at least one fossil stem tetrapod (Ichthyostega) is thought to have moved with a crutching gait, and crutching is a relatively basic form of locomotion that allowed us to focus on very specific aspects of the locomotor structures. We used a combination of a biological model (mudskipper fish; Video 2), robophysical model (MuddyBot; Figure 1), and mathematical model (geometric mechanics) to evaluate what a crutching animal did when moving on inclined sand, how a crutching animal coordinated its fins and tail to move on inclined sand, and why only particular combinations of fin + tail coordinations were successful (i.e., lead to forward progression). Working with such a talented and interdisciplinary group of collaborators was such a great experience and contributed a much more comprehensive evaluation of the locomotor biomechanics of crutching than a single discipline could have contributed alone. Thanks to my incredible collaborators for all of your hard work!
Check out the paper here: science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6295/154
With a Perspective on the paper here: science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6295/120
And media attention (subject to updates):
I am pleased to announce that I will be joining the Structure and Motion Lab at the Royal Veterinary College next year as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Research Fellow to work with John Hutchinson on estimating bone strength in models of stem tetrapods! Then in the Fall of 2017, I will be beginning an appointment as Assistant Professor of Comparative Physiology at California State University, Long Beach!
I will be accepting applications for Master's students in the Spring of 2017 to begin their graduate programs at CSULB in the Fall of 2017, so please direct any motivated students my way. I am particularly eager to find undergraduates ~ 1.5 years away from graduation who I could work with to write NSF GRFP applications this Fall (due Nov 2016) for their Master's research. More details will be uploaded to my website in the following months, so please share my website to any prospective students who are eager to address questions related to organismal physiology, functional morphology, biomechanics, and evolutionary ecology! Note: fishes will be the primary study taxa in my lab, but I am open to considering other systems if they better address the research question.
Thanks to everyone who has given me support and mentorship over the years! It's finally time to transfer all of the knowledge gleaned from my mentors and colleagues towards fostering the development of the next generation of scientists. I can't wait to start this exciting new chapter in my life, and join the CSULB family! Go Beach!
Next week commences the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Darwin Day celebration, one of the longest student-run organizations in the world (active since 1997)! Every year a different theme is picked to highlight major aspects of evolutionary biology, and this year we will be celebrating paleontology. We are happy to be hosting world-famous fish paleontologist and science communicator, Neil Shubin, as our keynote speaker! He will be delivering his talk on "Your Inner Fish" on Thursday, February 11, which will be followed by a book-signing. Please join us for what will likely be our biggest Darwin Day ever!
UT Darwin Day is free to the public and features a series of science education talks on different aspects of paleontology (see image above), a birthday party for Darwin at the McClung Museum, a Teacher's Workshop, and field trips to provide experiential learning with fossil specimens! Check out one of the 75 fossil kits that has been prepared for teachers in the South East region of the USA, as part of a "Teaching Evolution Without Tears" lesson plan: https://www.facebook.com/chuck.darwin/posts/10208643533793845
Thank you to the UT Darwin Day Organizing Committee for inviting me to deliver one of the Brown Bag Lunch lectures, where I will share the state-of-the-art in reconstructing how extinct animals might have moved when they were alive. Oh, and I was told there would be free cookies. A summary of my talk is as follows:
"Fossils are important ‘time capsules’ that reveal clues about the evolutionary history of life. They can appear as bone remains or even footprints, but how is this information used to learn about the behavior of an animal that has been dead for hundreds of millions of years? To answer this question, some scientists have combined a variety of cutting-edge approaches in engineering, mathematics, and biology to calculate how the body powers movements. This field of research is called biomechanics and involves representing animals as ‘living machines’ so that the body parts are simplified to mechanical parts that can be described using principles from physics and engineering. In this talk, I will describe how the biomechanics of living animals have provided insights into interpreting the biology of ancient life. Specifically, fishes and salamanders are often used to model how vertebrate animals left their aquatic habitats to take their first steps onto land almost 400 million years ago. Recent studies have suggested that the limbs of salamanders are better capable of supporting weight on land than the fins of a semi-aquatic fish, and that the forelimbs are stronger than the hind limbs. Combined with information from the fossil record, these findings help explain how functional differences between fins and limbs may have impacted how vertebrate animals became terrestrial. Together, these studies demonstrate how integrating the biomechanics of living animals with the anatomy of fossils has been a powerful tool to breathe life in fossils and learn about the evolutionary past."
More information about UT Darwin Day can be found here: http://darwindaytn.org/
Media coverage of the event are featured at:
Various data from our recent bone loading paper in JEB have been uploaded on Dryad. These include data on bone stresses, safety factors, Vickers hardnesses, peak ground reaction forces, moment arms, and kinematics from the humerus and femur of Ambystoma tigrinum during terrestrial locomotion.
Our data package is available at Dryad: http://datadryad.org/resource/doi:10.5061/dryad.7f1j1
The accompanying paper is available as an Advance Online Access article at JEB: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2015/11/20/jeb.125799
If you have any questions on either research product, please email me at skawano<at>nimbios<dot>org. Thank you!
At the end of the 2016 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting, I was officially appointed as the Representative for students and post-docs in the Division of Comparative Biomechanics. This term will be for three years, and I can't wait to give back to the society that has given so much to me while I was a student. SICB is one of the most student-friendly professional societies, and spent over $200,000 in 2015 alone to support students to conduct their research and present it at the annual meeting. Please feel free to email me if you have ideas about how to improve the student experience through SICB!