Research

My research has focused on the biomechanics and morphometrics of digging animals.

 

biomechanics

I designed and built custom force platforms using ATI force/torque transducers to measure kinematics, paired with simultaneous X-ray Motion Analysis (XMA) to visualize burrowing in realistic environments. I used three closely-related Geomyoid rodents with disparate morphology to study the influences of specialization and phylogeny on digging biomechanics. Below are horizontal and vertical views of pocket gopher digging in an artificial soil.  I used both artificial and real soil, but the animal's movements are much easier to see in the artificial soil. See videos of pocket mice and kangaroo rats digging on my youtube channel here.

 

microct

As a companion to my biomechanics research during my PhD, I performed, isolated, and reconstructed microCT scans of specimens from each genus within the Geomyoidea superfamily. 

 Reconstructed microCT scan of a desert kangaroo rat ( Dipodomys desert i) humerus

Reconstructed microCT scan of a desert kangaroo rat (Dipodomys deserti) humerus


Muscle architecture

 Illustration of the intrinsic musculature of the badger forelimb, with functionally important muscles identified. Medial view (left thoracic limb) depicting the relative size of major shoulder joint, elbow joint, carpal joint, and digital flexor and extensor muscles. Muscle abbreviations: TBLA, triceps brachii lateral head; TBLO, triceps brachii long head; TBM, triceps brachii medial head; BCR, brachioradialis; FDS, flexor digitorum superficialis; FDPHA, flexor digitorum profundus humeral head A. Scale bar is 5 cm.

Illustration of the intrinsic musculature of the badger forelimb, with functionally important muscles identified. Medial view (left thoracic limb) depicting the relative size of major shoulder joint, elbow joint, carpal joint, and digital flexor and extensor muscles. Muscle abbreviations: TBLA, triceps brachii lateral head; TBLO, triceps brachii long head; TBM, triceps brachii medial head; BCR, brachioradialis; FDS, flexor digitorum superficialis; FDPHA, flexor digitorum profundus humeral head A. Scale bar is 5 cm.

As a master's student, I studied the forelimb musculature and bone morphology of the American badger.  Muscle architectural properties are relatively easy to teach to students and are a relatively inexpensive way to study structure-function relationships.