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Flight control in birds: understanding how the muscles control wing shape and how this affects the airflow over the wing

Project Description

Birds display a wide variety of remarkable flight manoeuvres that engineers seek to emulate in flying robots. The muscular mechanisms that birds utilize to achieve such precise flight control are unknown. To better understand how birds control their flight and respond to environmental turbulence we need to understand how the muscles control wing shape and how this affects the airflow over the wing. This can be achieved by studying bird flight in a wind tunnel. The project will use state-of-the-art physiological and kinematics techniques to reveal the flight control mechanisms. We will also investigate the energetic cost of controlling the wing surfaces. By improving our understanding of biology, engineers can improve the design of their man-made devices by adopting a bio-inspired approach.

Funding Notes

BBSRC White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP 4 year studentship.
Studentships covers UK/EU fees and stipend (c.£14,553) for 4 years to start in Oct 2018. Applicants should have/be expecting at least a 2.1 Hons. degree in a relevant subject. EU candidates require 3 years of UK residency in order to receive full studentship.
Not all projects advertised will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process and the projects selected by the successful candidates will be funded.
There are 2 stages to the application process. Please see our website for more information: View Website


McFarlane, L.A., Altringham, J.D. and Askew, G.N. Intra-specific variation in wing morphology and its impact on takeoff performance in blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) during escape flights J. Exp. Biol. 219 1369-1377, 2016
Askew, G.N. The elaborate plumage in peacocks is not such a drag. J. Exp. Biol. 217, 3237-3241. 2014.
Holt, N.C., Roberts, T.J. and Askew, G.N. The energetic benefits of tendon springs in running: is the reduction of muscle work important? J. Exp. Biol. 217, 4365-4371. 2014.
Holt, N.C. and Askew, G.N. Locomotion on a slope: metabolic energy use, behavioural adaptations and the implications for route selection. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 2545-2550. 2012.

Bomphrey, R. J., Nakata, T., Phillips, N. and Walker, S. M. Smart wing rotation and trailing-edge vortices enable high frequency mosquito flight. Nature 544 92-95. 2017
Mokso, R., Schwyn, D. A., Walker, S. M., Doube, M., Wicklein, M., Müller, T., Stampanoni, M., Taylor, G .K., & Krapp, H. G. Four-dimensional in vivo X-ray microscopy with projection-guided gating. Sci. Rep. 2015
Walker, S. M., Schwyn, D. A., Mokso, R. Wicklein, M., Müller, T., Double, M. Stampanoni, M., Krapp, H. G., and Taylor, G. K. In vivo time-resolved microtomography reveals the mechanics of the blowfly flight motor. PLOS Biol. 12(3) 1-12. 2014
Walker, S. M., Thomas, A. L. R. and Taylor, G. K. Operation of the alula as an indicator of gear change in hoverflies. J. R. Soc. Interface 9 1194-1207, 2012

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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