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 behaviour 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 behaviour 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 behaviours. 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.
Altshuler Lab News
5 January 2017New paper: We recorded from global visual motion neurons in the lentiformis mesencephali of hummingbirds and zebra finches. This study, now online at Current Biology, revealed unique response properties that provide a potential mechanism for the visual guidance of hovering flight in hummingbirds.
8 December 2016New paper: We used a combination of field and lab studies to determine how maneuvering performance of hummingbirds changes across elevations. This work is now online at Current Biology.
23 November 2016Congratulations to Benny Goller. He successfully defended his PhD dissertation on hummingbird visual guidance. Benny will be moving to Purdue University in January to start a postdoc with Esteban Fernandez-Juricic.
18 July 2016A new lab study on the visual guidance of course control during forward flight has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA..
12 May 2016Congratulations to Dimitri! He received the William S. Hoar Award for the best student oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Zoologists.
26 April 2016Congratulations to Jolan Theriault! She was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship from NSERC to support her M.Sc. research.
30 March 2016A new lab paper on the biomechanics of arcing turns by hummingbirds has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface .
2 March 2016Congratulations again to Roz! Today she received the Faculty of Science Excellence in Service Award for a postdoc. This award recognizes Roz for creating and leading workshops to help colleagues improve their knowledge of statistical analysis.
6 January 2016Congratulations to Roz Dakin, who received the Dorothy M. Skinner Award from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology! This award recognizes one young female scientist each year who has demonstrated outstanding scholarship and shows high potential for continued excellence in research.
19 November 2015A new lab paper on the biomechanical determinants of maneuverability has been published in eLife.
16 October 2015A review paper on the biophysics of bird flight, written by the lab group, has appeared online for an upcoming special issue in the Canadian Journal of Zoology.
20 July 2015Congratulations to Paolo Segre, who has successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation on the biomechanics of maneuvering flight. Paolo is now a postdoc with Jeremy Goldbogen at Stanford University.
3 June 2015Congratulations to Tyee Fellows, who has successfully defended his M.Sc. thesis on the temporal and spatial acuity of the hummingbird visual system.
8 April 2015Congratulations to Tyson Read, who has successfully defended his M.Sc. thesis on the biomechanics of arcing turns.
18 March 2015A new collaborative aerodynamics study on wing aspect ratio has appeared in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
15 January 2015Doug's work on hummingbird maneuverability is featured in Episode 3 ("Triumph") of the new David Attenborough series Conquest Of The Skies.
8 December 2014A new lab publication on the visual guidance of hovering flight has appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
14 November 2014A new analysis of honeybee aerodynamics has appeared in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.
30 July 2014A comparative study of hummingbird aerodynamics has appeared in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
01 June 2014Tyee Fellows is awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship from NSERC.
16 April 2014Dimitri Skandalis passed his comprehensive exam and is now a Ph.D. candidate.
03 April 2014A new analysis of hummingbird systematics will appear in Current Biology.
01 April 2014Roslyn Dakin is awarded a prestigious NSERC postdoctoral fellowship to pursue her research in the lab!
16 August 2013Joe Bahlman won the best student presentation at IBRC 2013!
24 June 2013Congratulations to Amelia Stegeman who is off to UBC med school!
13 June 2013Amelia Stegeman proves she has mastered science by successfully defending her thesis on the development of a 3D hummingbird brain atlas. Congratulations!
16 May 2013The lab is very pleased that Dr. Andrea Gaede is joining, strengthening our neurobiology focus.
16 April 2013A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Inner Workings focus on Avian Acrobatics by Prashant Nair is out. Features a dashing young Douglas Altshuler.
20 March 2013Congratulations to Benny Goller for passing his comprehensive exam! Benny is officially a PhD Candidate, graduating from Candidate for PhD Candidate.
19 March 2013The Altshuler, Lentink, and Srinivisan labs land a collaborative HFSP grant to examine the visual guidance of transitions between flight modes in birds.