I am an integrative zoologist whose research team examines the comparative physiology and biomechanics of vertebrates. We are particularly interested in understanding how constraints have shaped the respiratory and locomotor systems of birds and mammals. We use a range of in vivo and ex vivo techniques to answer the questions stemming from our research:
Mechanics of Ventilation: the avian respiratory system is remarkable in terms of its complexity and efficiency. The evolution of this system with its unique lung morphology and physiology has contributed to birds becoming one of the most successful vertebrate lineages. The uncinate processes are bony ossified projections that extend posteriorly from the proximal edge of the vertebral ribs in most species of extant birds. These processes are integral to the mechanics of ventilation; playing a key role in both inspiration and expiration by acting as levers for rib and therefore sternal movement. We have recently demonstrated and continue to investigate how morphological variations in these processes demonstrate that constraints placed on the body by adaptations to different forms of locomotion. Our research indicates that adaptations are key to understanding differences in how birds breathe.
Biomechanics - the energetics and kinematics of locomotion: terrestrial locomotion of birds (and animals in general) is subject to morphological (kinematic) and physiological (energetic) constraints. We have a long-standing interest in understanding how these constraints influence the way and costs associated with animal movement. Recently we have begun to understand the impacts of differential loading, seasonal adaptations and how sexual selection drive differences in locomotor energetics and kinematics.
Avian Welfare: the poultry industry is massive and accounts for over 30% of the meat eaten worldwide; a conservative estimate of around 30-40 billion birds consumed each year. These domesticated birds are commonly selected for rapid growth rates and an increased edible muscle mass. However, selection for these traits is widely assumed to have led to a range of associated health problems. Using our comparative approach in both ventilatory mechanics and locomotor biomechanics we are investigating the underlying causes of welfare issues in poultry.