TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION: Animals and plants reflect the physical properties of the medium in which they live, and variation in anatomy that enhances performance is the basis of natural selection and fitness. However, the insights that nature provides has often been limited by the technology available at the time. To date, the large body of experimental work that has been conducted in the field of hydrodynamics and aerodynamics of organisms has been limited to two dimensions (2D), driven in large part by the use of 2D or planar PIV (Particle Image Velocimetry). Yet the 3D nature of organismal design and fluid movements is what drives the massive diversity of body plans and designs that exist. Attempts have been made to extrapolate 2D information to provide theoretical 3D models of fluid flows resulting from biological systems, thus the precise hydrodynamic advantage of different body shapes or movement patterns remains elusive. One of the most exciting recent developments in the study of fluid flows is a new V3V or Volumetric 3-Component Velocimetry system that uses laser illuminated, neutrally buoyant reflective particles and a three camera system to provide a quantitative visualization of fluid flows in 3D. This research will use the Integrated Volumetric PIV (V3V) computer modeling System (IVCMS) to explore biologically relevant fluid flows in true 3D across a wide range of biological phenomena. The projects are specifically designed to quantitatively understand and visualize in 3D how aquatic organisms perform ecologically relevant tasks that influence fitness. Research topics range from suspension feeding and locomotion in invertebrates to ventilation, feeding and locomotion in aquatic vertebrates; and across multiple scales. The multi-user equipment will increase access to cutting-edge technology by bringing together individuals from multiple disciplines and institutions (including international collaborations). Research programs of all major-users will be greatly enhanced and will foster collaborations that will provide a research-rich environment, and stimulate the flow of progressive biological ideas designed to meet the challenges of science in the 21st century.

BROADER SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPORTANCE: Understanding fluid flows in biological systems can provide key insights into biologically-inspired engineering designs. The research will use a state of the art technique to study biologically important and biologically induced fluid flows in true 3D. Reconstructing fluid flows in true 3D has not been possible to date and this system will generate important data that can be used to directly understand how organisms have overcome the challenges of living and moving in water. The system will be located at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI), and will integrate research and education in an environment that is conducive to the excitement of scientific discovery and student driven research. This modern-day equipment will directly broaden the participation of individuals from underrepresented groups. The proposed research and cutting edge techniques will achieve the goals of providing increased access to the next generation of major instrumentation to both students and advanced level researchers. The results generated are visually appealing and likely to attract more students and retain them in the biological sciences, as well as engage them in exciting and dynamic research. Results from this research can also provide important information to improve the efficiency of aquatic engineering designs.

Project Report

This research instrument is a state-of-the-art imaging system that allows the visualization and quantification of fluid flows. The imaging technique takes advantage of the latest developments in technology to investigate several biological phenomena. This system allows us to investigate how organisms interact with their physical environment and perform functions that increase their chance of survival. It has resulted in new interactions between individuals from the host institution as well as those from other institutions. It has provided a training platform for several individuals including those from underrepresented groups. Hofstra is a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI) and in addition to providing a cutting-edge tool for research this imaging system has been incorporated into several areas of our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. It has increased the range of projects available to students and has attracted several individuals to undergraduate research. It has also allowed students to experience firsthand the excitement of scientific inquiry. The very visual nature of the data gives it broad appeal. The system has directly integrated research with education activities. The imaging system is highly versatile and has already been used to study a wide range of topics and animals. This system is being used to investigate subjects such as suspension feeding in worms to feeding and body shape in fishes. The scientific discoveries resulting from this research has practical applications. For example, understanding fluid flow around different shaped objects in fast flowing waters such as that encountered during storm surges. It can also provide important insights into biologically inspired designs.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Robert Fleischmann
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Hofstra University
United States
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