Evolutionary Ecomorphology

I am interested in how animal phenotypes are shaped by ecology and the physical constraints of the environment. My research typically investigates how jaws and teeth are shaped by prey and how body shapes are influenced by habitat.

I take a comparative and integrative approach to my science. I combine experimental methods, high-speed videography, and field work to characterize animal behavior and ecology. I use high-resolution bio-imaging techniques like CT-scanning to visualize anatomy and often apply biomechanical models to describe function. Lastly, I use phylogenetic comparative methods to put variation into context and to better understand how traits change over evolutionary time.

Below are some of my current research areas.

Conceptual diagram of evolutionary ecomorphology.

Current Reasearch

Salamander Locomotor Biomechanics

Salamanders live in a variety of habitats from water to land to trees. From a functional perspective, what kinds of morphologies and behaviors have they evolved to move between mediums so easily?

Ecomechanics of Biological Suction Cups

Many fishes have evolved adhesive discs made from modified pelvic and pectoral girdles to stick to diverse surfaces. How does disc morphology and performance vary with ecology and phylogeny?

Evolutionary Feeding Biomechanics

Catching and consuming prey are essential for survival, and yet many fishes feed on difficult prey. How does diet shape feeding morphology? Do extreme prey require more specialized traits?

Adaptive Radiation and Convergence

Anole lizards show strong habitat-morphology relationships that have evolved repeatedly on Caribbean islands. Are these patterns repeatable in Central and South America? If so, to what extent?

SegmentGeometry Extension for 3D Slicer

Second moment of area is a measure of how well the cross-section of a beam will resist bending because of its shape. Many have used it to investigate the mechanical adaptations of biological structures from stingray jaws to animal limb bones. With the large availability of micro-CT scans, studying the internal geometry of biological structures has become more accessible but we are limited by available software. I designed the SegmentGeometry extension for 3D Slicer, to iterate slice-by-slice through 3D structures and calculate second moment of area and other cross-sectional properties.

Read more about beam theory and SegmentGeometry in our paper here.

Learn how to install and use SegmentGeometry here.