Dr. Doug Altshuler
Faculty of Science
One of the most remarkable adaptations in animals is the ability to fly. Birds, bats and insects are among the most successful of terrestrial organisms, and their colonization of diverse habitats and ecological roles provides a rich context for studies of animal behavior and ecology. The study of how animals fly is an intrinsically multidisciplinary field that involves aspects of aerodynamics, physiology, and neuroscience. Although most flight research concerns either mechanisms or ecological interactions, flight behavior provides a powerful yet experimentally tractable system with which to merge reductionist and comparative approaches to understand how complex locomotion is accomplished, and how variation in locomotor performance influences higher-order behaviors. In my laboratory, we aim to integrate approaches ranging from laboratory experiments to evolutionary comparisons because understanding the mechanisms of flight control also requires understanding the historical forces that have shaped it. Conversely, to evaluate the mechanisms by which ecological changes result in biological adaptations requires a well-described system that can be studied in different environments.