Structure without function is a corpse… function without structure is a ghost (Vogel and Wainwright, 1969).
My research utilizes two general approaches. I think about (1) physiology or mechanisms of the skeletal system and other biomaterials and (2) anatomy, the structure of the system.
I have used quasi-static mechanical testing to examine the cartilage found in shark vertebral columns (Porter et al., 2006 and 2007). My research showed shark cartilage was comparable to some kinds of mammalian bone.
My current research examines the dynamic non-linear viscoelastic properties (currently funded by the National Science Foundation). Linear mechanics deals with between cycle differences, whereas non-linear mechanics allows me to think about the mechanics of the vertebral columns taking place throughout a tail beat.
This study examined body curvature from five shark species with varying total vertebral numbers. Body curvature, body shape, and vertebral morphology varied among species, and we found significant morphological links to body curvature in swimming animals performing routine turns. (Porter, Roque, and Long, 2009).
We determined the axial swimming and gliding mechanics of electric rays. This project was conducted as a senior research project by Hannah Rosenblum at Vassar College (Rosenblum, Long, and Porter, 2011).
We have been using bioinspired robotic fish to think about the role of varying vertebral column mechanics and morphology plays in swimming performance. (Long et al., 2011)
Elasmobranch vertebra have a mineralized double cone structure that is conserved among species. However, mineral arrangement varies among species, and these morphological differences have significant effects on the mechanical properties (Porter et al., 2006). Vertebral shape also varies among significantly effecting body curvature during swimming of sharks (Porter, Roque, and Long, 2009).
I spend two summers during my dissertation at Friday Harbor Labs in Washington investigating the ventilation mechanics of swimming sharks. I am particularly interested in ventilation with increasing performance in sharks with spiracles (vestigial first gills).