Science on Tap is a monthly series held at National Mechanics in Old City where a new speaker discusses a topic of interest each month. July's topic is Water-to-Land: Put Your Back into It.
Let's get together for some learning and drinking and stick around after the presentation for some more brews :)
Climbing stairs, getting over street curbs, and stepping over fallen logs are all examples of daily obstacle-crossing. Fortunately, we have learned to navigate a complex, 3D terrestrial world without giving it much thought. However, 350 million years ago, our aquatic ancestors faced the same problem with much more dire consequences. If our ancestors couldn’t cross obstacles during the tetrapod-land invasion, you, a T-rex, a snake, and many other animals would be confined to tidal flats. This fundamental behavior has challenged roboticists for years. Luckily, by combining paleontology, biomechanics, and some physical modelling, we can gain insights by returning to the animals who first met this immense challenge.
About the Speaker: Aja is a PhD Candidate in Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Pennsylvania who works at the intersection of biomechanics, kinematics, and ancient life. A Philadelphia native, Aja started volunteering at the Academy of Natural Sciences when she was 13, and got her bachelors in Biology from Drexel. She is interested in understanding ancient and novel vertebral morphologies through physical modelling. These vertebral morphologies expand our understanding the development of terrestrial locomotion across 300 million years of vertebrate evolution.