David Laidlaw, together with Sharon Swartz (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) and Kenny Breuer (Engineering), has received a $20,000 Salomon Award for his interdisciplinary work on the aerodynamic mechanisms of bat flight.
Thanks to recent work from the Swartz lab, it is now known that the aerodynamics of bats in flight must include as yet undescribed means of generating lift and controlling flight maneuvers. Drawing on their combined knowledge, they will document the spatially and temporally complex movement patterns of bat wings and airflow around them. In the process of working out the mechanistic basis of this unique form of flight, not only will they learn how bats fly, they will also begin simultaneously to advance understanding in the evolution of biological design, aerodynamics of small, flexible winged 'vehicles', and computer science techniques to understand large, spatially structured datasets.
This multidisciplinary collaboration holds promise for identifying principles that can be applied to the design of animal-sized machines, a growing area of interest in engineering.