Fishes & Dynamic Environments
We are broadly interested in how fishes cope with dynamic environments, especially under the themes of ecological biomechanics, threat responses, and resiliency to change. By integrating approaches from multiple disciplines, we seek to answer biomechanical and ecological questions that have previously been inaccessible. Our work has not only advanced our understanding of how aquatic animals swim but has also been adapted into applications such as understanding how abiotic factors combine with genotype to create phenotype and technological innovations like wind turbine and biomimetic robotic vehicle designs. We also work closely with natural resource managers to ensure our areas of focus are aligned with questions of interest and will inform conservation and management efforts.
Goal: determine how inter- and intraspecific variation in swimming biomechanics influences fish behavior,
energy budgets, and habitat occupancy
energy budgets, and habitat occupancy
Accessing resources is a challenge for aquatic animals like fishes because they must move through water, which is dense and viscous. These physical properties mean that the drag from the water around a fish’s body dramatically limits its speed and acceleration. So, fish morphology, physiology, and ecology should reflect the challenges of moving through water. Different body and fin shapes tend to correlate with different swimming behaviors and environments, leading to the hypothesis that each morphology may provide specific functional and ecological benefits. But the extent to which swimming mechanics vary among populations and translate into habitat occupancy remain largely unexplored. We study temperate, freshwater fishes to address this gap, relying on the diversity of species and populations along the gradient from torrential rivers to static, vegetated lake shores.
Flexibility and Swimming Performance
How do material and structural properties of the body/fins control kinematics and performance?
Image by D. Kennedy
Mechanics of Force Production
How do differences in body/fin shapes and movement patterns lead to swimming forces?
Functional Morphology and Ecology
What influence do morphology and mechanics have on habitat occupancy by fishes?
Response & Resiliency to Environmental Change
Goal: understand the impact global and regional change has on fishes
Freshwater ecosystems have tremendous commercial, recreational, and cultural value, but they are among those most threatened, globally, by environmental change. Temperature is a master variable for fishes that sets range limits and the pace of life, and so the shifts in thermal regime that result from climate change are affecting species distributions, community composition, and individual animal health. Further, as the natural and built worlds become more closely entwined, other stressors like contaminants, flow regimes, and turbidity shift, too. We seek to understand what happens to fishes, especially small-bodied species or young-of-year, exposed to these multiple stressors and how resilient fishes are to such environmental change.
In what ways does thermal regime impact biomechanics, behavior, and energetics?
Over Space & Time
How are fish communities across a landscape impacted by interannual thermal change?
Are the impacts of multiple stressors additive, synergistic, or antagonistic?
Can we use our learning to predict how fishes will respond to future environmental change?
We are excited about the possibility of collaboration! Some examples of our ongoing collaborations are provided below. Interested in working together? Get in touch!
Dr. Heather Jamniczky
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Change in fish communities in due to interannual variation in temperature of Michigan's inland lakes
Dr. Mathilakath Vijayan
Dr. Jaime Wong
Jellyfish feeding and swimming
Dr. Lucas has been a member of a network led by Drs. Sean Colin (biologist, Roger Williams University), Jack Costello (biologist, emeritus Providence College), and John Dabiri (engineer, Caltech) since 2010. The team’s primary focus is the intersections of feeding, swimming, and environmental flows in jellyfishes and comb jellies. They also use a jelly’s simplistic form as a model system for understanding first principles of aquatic swimming, which can then be recognized in swimmers like fishes which make more complex motions.