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Dr. Byrnes joined the Biology Department as an Assistant Professor in 2012.  He completed his Ph.D. in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009, investigating the biomechanical and ecological contexts of gliding in mammals.  Prior to coming to Siena, Dr. Byrnes conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati, studying the biomechanics of locomotion in arboreal snakes.  He has continued several projects in comparative biomechanics here at Siena and actively involves undergraduates in his current work.  Each fall semester, he teaches students about phenomena at the interface of biology, physics, and engineering in an upper level lecture and laboratory course in Comparative Biomechanics.

Degree Program University
Ph.D. University of California-Berkeley

My Siena Experience

My Teaching Philosophy

My goal is to get students directly involved in learning and wanting to know more. I merge research into the classroom and laboratory wherever possible to both keep students abreast to latest in the field and help them see the process of science firsthand.

What I Love About Siena

Our small class sizes and laboratory-intensive curriculum allows more 1-on-1 interactions between students and faculty. As a result, we more directly see our students’ growth both in the classroom and as people.

My Favorite Courses to Teach

Comparative Biomechanics Writing and Research Skills for Biologists General Biology

My Professional Experience

Year Title University
2017 - Now Associate Professor Siena College
2012 - 2017 Assistant Professor Siena College
2009 - 2011 Postdoctoral Fellow University of Cincinnati
2008 - 2009 Teaching Fellow (NSF GK-12) University of California, Berkeley
2007 - 2007 Curatorial Assistant Museum of Comparative Zoology, UC Berkeley
2003 - 2009 Graduate Student Instructor University of California, Berkeley

Current Research

My broad research interests are in understanding how and why animals move. For many animals, locomotor performance determines whether or not an individual is able to collect enough food, evade predators, migrate to new habitats, or attract mates. How do animals interact with the unpredictable environment surrounding them to accomplish these critical behaviors? I am interested in the physical interaction between animals and their environment, and in how physiology, morphology and behavior contribute to performance of ecologically relevant behaviors. My research integrates laboratory-based physiology and mechanics with field-based vertebrate locomotor ecology to understand the physical foundation of diverse, natural locomotor behaviors. I focus at the level of the whole organism, asking both how animals interact physically with their environment, as well what are the ecological and evolutionary consequences of these variable interactions. I draw on theory and experimental techniques from fields such as functional morphology, engineering, evolutionary biology, exercise physiology and biomechanics, to answer questions at the interface of locomotor physiology and behavioral ecology.

Articles & Book Reviews

  • Investigation of the mechanics of squirrel jumping
    International Conference on Adaptive Structures and Technologies
    2016
  • How animals glide: from trajectory to morphology
    Canadian Journal of Zoology, vol. 93
    2015
  • The effects of slope and branch structure on the locomotion of a specialize arboreal colubrid snake (Boiga irregulars)
    Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A Ecological Genetics and Physiology, vol. 323A
    2015
  • Gripping during climbing of arboreal snakes may be safe but not economical
    Biology Letters, vol. 10
    2014
  • Incline and peg spacing have interactive effects on the arboreal locomotor performance and kinematics of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis)
    Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 216
    2013
  • Occurrence of the Sunda colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) in the tropical forests of Singapore: A Bayesian approach.
    Mammalian Biology, vol. 78
    2013
  • The effects of three-dimensional gap orientation on bridging performance and behavior of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis).
    Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 215
    2012
  • Ecological and biomechanical insights into the evolution of gliding in mammals.
    Integrative and Comparative Biology, vol. 51
    2011
  • Gliding saves time but not energy in Malayan colugos.
    Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 214
    2011
  • Sex differences in the locomotor ecology of a gliding mammal (Galeopterus variegatus).
    Journal of Mammalogy, vol. 92
    2011
  • Substrate diameter and compliance affect the gripping strategy and locomotor mode of climbing boa constrictors
    Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 213
    2010
  • Take-off and landing kinetics of a free ranging gliding mammal, the Malayan colugo (Galeopterus variegatus).
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 275
    2008
  • Gliding and the functional origins of flight: Biomechanical Novelty of Necessity?
    Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, vol. 38
    2007

Awards & Distinctions

  • Visiting Scientist
    Category: Research
    Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, 2018

Presentations

  • Structural properties of the gliding membrane of the colugo (Galeopterus variegatus)
    2017
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • The role of arm-swing while running over uneven terrain
    2017
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Investigation of the mechanics of squirrel jumping
    2016
    International Conference on Adaptive Structures and Technologies, Lake George, NY, United States of America
  • Understanding the mechanical tradeoffs for arboreal locomotion in squirrels
    2016
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Portland, Oregon
  • Landing on a wall: Tail-induced transitions in lizards stabilize hard landings
    2014
    7th World Congress of Biomechanics, Boston, Massachusetts
  • The effects of gap distance and substrate compliance on the biomechanics of jumping in gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)
    2014
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Austin, Texas
  • Gliding geckos perch on a tree trunk assisted by active tails
    2013
    Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, San Francisco, California
  • The gripping forces and behavior of climbing snakes
    2012
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Charleston, South Carolina
  • Comparative performance of bridging gaps in three dimensions for phylogenetically diverse snakes.
    2011
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Dogs on springs: do trotting dogs adjust their virtual leg stiffness on compliant surfaces
    2011
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Ecological and biomechanical insights into the origins of gliding in mammals.
    2011
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Three-dimensional trajectories affect gap bridging in brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis).
    2011
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Decreased substrate diameter and increased surface compliance decrease climbing performance in snakes.
    2010
    Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington
  • Trotting dogs do not stiffen their virtual leg on a compliant surface: implications for control of legged locomotion.
    2010
    Society for Experimental Biology, Prague, Czech Republic