Research on the adhesive systems of geckos, ants, and sea urchins has principally focused the physical mechanism of adhesion. This work, however, has left gaps in our understanding of the chemical, material, and morphological characteristics of these systems. An integral part of our research is focused on filling these gaps in our understanding of the adhesive mechanism.
Currently most performance measurements of biological adhesive systems focus on testing the adhesive apparatus in controlled laboratory conditions. This approach, however, neglects whole animal performance, and relevant abiotic and biotic factors and interactions. Furthermore, very little work has explored what these performance measurements mean for the behavior and ecology of these organisms. To address these complex interactions which result in variation in adhesive performance and behavior, we test static and dynamic adhesion of live geckos, ants, and sea urchins in a variety of ecologically relevant conditions in the laboratory and the field.
Finally, our interdisciplinary focus allows us to apply the insights we glean from the mechanistic, performance, and behavioral attributes of the natural system to synthetic systems. We are interested in the application of bio-inspired design and biomimicry to real-world problems. We also find that these provide important opportunities for large scale collaboration (e.g., STEAM), education, and service.