Functional Zoology (WUR)

This course addresses basic skills required for research in functional zoology and related fields. The student is introduced to a range of important experimental techniques, such as:
– morphometry;
– biomechanics;
– high-speed video analysis of kinematics of moving animals;
– signal analysis;
– analysis of stresses and strains of muscle and connective tissue;
– measurement of work output by muscle fibres.

In addition, a basic training is given in analytical and numerical modelling using the powerful engineering software package Matlab as a programming environment.
Previous knowledge of Matlab is not required. The theoretical background is offered in the form of lectures, selected book chapters and articles. The laboratory work consists of several mini-research projects in which questions have to be formulated, an appropriate experimental protocol has to be designed, an experiment has to be conducted, and data have to be analysed and discussed. The topics that will be addressed include:
– muscle structure and function;
– terrestrial and aerial locomotion;
– shape, scaling and allometry;
– aerodynamics of animal flight;
– biomaterials and structures;
– ecomorphology.

Each student delivers written or oral presentations of the mini-research projects. For students with a prior training in modelling, the animal flight practical will involve the development of a computational model. The other students analyze videos of flying animals. Models and experiment will be compared to illustrate the power of a deductive methodology.