OSyM Participants

    • Type of Researcher
    Emily Carrington
    Biomechanic, Ecomechanic, Organismal Biologist
    University of Washington
    Friday Harbor Laboratories
    Research Summary

    Research in the Carrington Lab follows an ecomechanical approach to the study of living systems, applying the basic engineering principles to evaluate how coastal organisms interact with their environment. Our work involves both plants and animals and spans many levels of biological organization, from the mechanics of biological materials, to the persistence of populations, to the characterization of the physical environment. A central goal of our research is to understand how coastal organisms with cope with ocean change, such as ocean acidification and warming.

    Biographical Info

    Emily Carrington grew up in Michigan and North Carolina, always fascinated with water and the creatures that lived in it. She received a BA in Biology from Cornell University in 1985 a doctoral degree from Stanford University in 1992 (advised by Dr. Mark Denny). She was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. John Gosline’s laboratory at UBC before joining the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Rhode Island in 1995. She has been on the faculty of the UW Department of Biology since 2005.

    Keywords: functional genomics
    Sarah Cohen
    Organismal Biologist
    San Francisco State University
    Estuary and Ocean Science Center
    Keywords: conservation genetics, inverebrate biology, immunogenetics, phylogeography, candidate loci, marine invasions
    Caitlyn Collins
    Organismal Biologist
    Master of Science Candidate
    Bloomsburg University
    Research Summary

    Her research is focused in physiological ecology. Her masters thesis was on sea urchins and their physiological impacts due to near future sea surface temperatures. She did a laboratory study that focused on the behavioral and feeding changes that occurred when sea urchins were exposed to increase water temperatures. She also did a field study that described distribution of those sea urchins in their natural habitat and related it back to her laboratory study.

    Biographical Info

    Caitlyn Collins is from Philadelphia, PA. She received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and General Biology from East Stroudsburg University. Her undergraduate research explored meiofauna populations and how climate could impact their communities. She attends Bloomsburg University, pursuing a Master of Science. Her thesis research examines the thermal tolerance of the sea urchins Echinometra lucunter and Eucidaris tribuloides and how it affects their feeding rates. This is being done in the laboratory at Bloomsburg University, as well as in the field in Roatan, Honduras and the Florida Keys. This will help predict how the sea urchins physiology could change with ocean warming and the impact that will have on their respective environments.

    Noah Cowan
    Engineer, Organismal Biologist
    Johns Hopkins University
    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    Research Summary

    We study sensorimotor control of animal movement, using a “control theoretic” perspective; specifically, we use mathematical models of biomechanics, together with principles of control theory, to design perturbations. The responses to these perturbations can be used to furnish a quantitative description of the way the nervous system processes sensory information for control.

    Biographical Info

    Noah J. Cowan received a BS degree from the Ohio State University, Columbus, in 1995, and MS and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1997 and 2001 – all in electrical engineering. Following his PhD, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley for two years. In 2003, he joined the mechanical engineering department at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, where he is now a professor. Prof. Cowan’s research interests include mechanics and multisensory control in animals and machines. Prof. Cowan received the NSF PECASE award in 2010, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Complex Systems in 2012, and the William H. Huggins Award for excellence in teaching in 2004.

    Keywords: control theory, sensiromotor control, neuromechanics, hippocampus
    Claudia Crowther
    Modeler, Organismal Biologist
    Michigan State University
    Research Summary

    Broadly, I'm an evolutionary ecologist interested in how animals, particularly reptiles, adapt to environmental change. My current research uses reptiles with temperature-dependent sex determination as a model to ask questions about behavioral adaptation to climate change and the evolutionary consequences of phenotype plasticity. I use a combination of modelling and field experiments to address these questions.

    Biographical Info

    I'm a postdoctoral researcher working at Kellogg Biological Station. I'm originally from Sydney, Australia, where I started my PhD investigating local climate adaptation in reptiles. However, when covid and extreme weather made my field sites inaccessible, I got into modelling! I'm keen to learn new techniques to model ecological and evolutionary processes, and to share what I know about individual-based simulations.

    Rafael D'Andrea
    Postdoctoral Researcher
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Research Summary

    In my research, I use modeling approaches to ask how elements of biological complexity impact community diversity and trait structure. For example, I showed that some commonly made assumptions about resource use can vastly overestimate coexistence. Focusing on competitive dynamics, I have examined how outcomes are affected by immigration, regional diversity, genetic mutations, multidimensional niche space, intraspecific variation, demographic structure, and environmental spatial structure.

    One area of focus has been to demonstrate the generality of a phenotypic pattern of coexistence, whereby competing species cluster by traits. Having shown that the phenomenon is robust to stochastic forces common in nature, I found that tropical trees in Panama are clustered my maximum height and wood density, a result that corroborates previous classifications of Neotropical forests into vertical layers associated with competition for light.

    Going forward, I plan to focus my research on advancing ecological theory linking community assembly processes to macroecological patterns, and confronting this theoretical framework with data. This research program is especially aimed at high-diversity systems such as tropical forests, where we need to better understand how stochastic and deterministic forces interact to shape communities and maintain biodiversity.

    Biographical Info

    I am a community ecologist. I am interested in how species interactions create order in complex ecosystems. My research tries to answer questions such as What are the relative roles of deterministic and stochastic forces in shaping communities and influencing which species get to coexist? Conversely, what can specific combinations of species and their traits reveal about the forces underlying ecological dynamics? What are the key mechanisms behind species coexistence in highly biodiverse communities such as tropical forests?

    I am currently a postdoc at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I completed my PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan in 2016. I have a bachelor's degree in physics from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a master's degree in physics from Stony Brook University.

    I consider myself a theoretician bent on grounding theory in biological realism. To do so, I draw on mathematical tools, computational methods, and collaborations with colleagues with natural history expertise ranging from tropical forests to microbial communities.

    Mark Denny
    Biomechanic, Ecomechanic, Modeler, Organismal Biologist
    Stanford University
    Hopkins Marine Station
    Research Summary

    At the heart of all of our studies are the interactions between individual organisms and between organisms and their physical environment. These are the concerns of an emerging field know as ecological mechanics. By exploring the mechanical and physiological design of nearshore organisms, we hope to reveal how they evolved to thrive and compete amidst the severe stresses of the wave-swept shore. The principles that have guided evolution and ecology in this exceptionally harsh environment can provide valuable insight into the design of all plants and animals, and will help us to understand how organisms will cope with our changing climate.

    Biographical Info

    I was introduced to biomechanics by Steve Wainwright and Steve Vogel while I was an undergraduate at Duke. I then had the privilege of working with John Gosline at UBC for my doctorate on the thrilling subject of slug slime. A postdoc with Bob Paine at U. Washington introduced me to the ecological side of biomechanics. After a short stint at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, I moved to Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, where I have been ever since.

    Keywords: ecological mechanics
    Patsy Dickinson
    Organismal Biologist
    Bowdoin College
    Biology Department
    Research Summary

    My research focuses on modulation of pattern generating networks in crustaceans, particularly the cardiac and stomatogastric ganglia of lobsters and stretch feedback in the lobster cardiac neuromuscular system.

    Keywords: neuroscience