My research focuses on biomechanics - the way in which anatomy and physiology are subject to and exploit physical laws - as a means to understand diversity in the shapes and body forms of organisms and their evolution. The continuous thread uniting the whole of my research is the locomotor system and how limb bones and muscles are interrelated to the physics of terrestrial locomotion. Yet the lasting home of my work has been the research collections of natural history museums.
Throughout the course of my career, my research has been a changing entity. My initial focus was on dinosaurs (excluding birds). From dinosaurs, I shifted to working on modern mammals. Now, after a period of working on birds, I have returned to working on mammals, albeit a particular group of mammals: the Mustelidae (e.g., weasels, badgers, otters, martens). Much of my career has focused on "straightforward" biomechanics, namely how organismal structures physically behave, along with inferences of how evolution may have acted. In recent years, I have integrated phylogenetic comparative methods into my research, which are statistical methods that incorporate the evolutionary relationships among a monophyletic group of species (i.e., a group of species that are all descended from a single, common ancestor). Notably these methods are able to reconstruct the evolutionary history of a monophyletic group, providing for a deeper understanding of the processes and patterns underlying species diversity. By incorporating my data on anatomical form with data on the evolutionary history of groups of organisms, I can now root my research in a greater macroevolutionary context to understand how biomechanics has shaped the evolution of entire groups of organisms.
The collections of natural history have been a mainstay of my research, allowing me to "scale up" my biomechanics questions to broader macroevolutionary questions. Museum collections are vast repositories of knowledge, representing a physical compendium of the Earth's biological and mineral history. With regards to my own research, collections are an archive of anatomical diversity that allows me to uncover how biomechanics is interrelated to the diverse anatomies occurring in vertebrates. As my research grows to incorporate larger and larger groups of vertebrates, research collections will remain the essential fixture that unites my interests in biomechanics and macroevolution.