Ecological Biomechanics: when the flowing gets tough
In general, I want to understand how challenging flow conditions, such as wind and waves, interact with the form and function of organisms, including their biomechanical traits, behavior, and ecology. My research uses field and laboratory techniques from biomechanics, ecology, physiology, and behavior, and I have worked with the following model systems:
Seaweed and their herbivores on wave-swept shores
Benthic grazers and suspension feeders in intertidal zones
Terrestrial plants and their herbivores in wind-blown canopies
Pollinating insects in wind-blown vegetation
Some of my current research is highlighted below:
Flying pollinators in wind-blown canopies
A composite image of a honey bee traversing vertical obstacles (60 ms intervals), viewed from above.
Pollinators, such as honeybees, frequently encounter unpredictable gusts of wind and cluttered vegetation during their foraging trips. During my postdoctoral training at the University of California - Davis, I am investigated how bees traverse the dynamic flight challenges commonly found in nature. In a recent study, I found that, relative to honeybees traversing stationary obstacles, honeybees speed up to rapidly zip through moving obstacles in wind but slow down when traversing moving obstacles in still air. To avoid colliding with obstacles, honeybees in still air rely on flying slowly and cautiously, whereas honeybees in wind rely on fine-tuning their flight paths more than on regulating their flight speeds. This work was published in the Journal of Experimental Biologyand featured in the New York Times and Slate Magazine.
May 5, 2023 - New publication: Burnett and Combes (2023) Close encounters of three kinds: impacts of leg, wing, and body collisions on flight performance in carpenter bees. Journal of Experimental Biology 226: jeb245334 (Open access link)
March 17, 2023 - Award: Received the 2023 UC Davis Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research
August 25, 2022 - New publication: Burnett and Koehl (2022) Ecological biomechanics of damage to macroalgae. Frontiers in Plant Science 13:981904 (Open access link)
July 22, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) An evaluation of common methods for comparing the scaling of vertical force production in flying insects. Current Research in Insect Science 2: 100042. (Open access link)
March 31, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) A push for inclusive data collection in STEM organizations. Science 376(6588):37-39 (Link)
March 24, 2022 - New publication: Burnett et al. (2022) Wind and route choice affect performance of bees flying above versus within a cluttered obstacle field. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0265911. (Link)