Dr. Kathleen Foster
Dr. Kathleen Foster
<b>Department: </b>Biology<br><b>Research Area: </b>Biomechanical and physiological mechanisms underlying animal locomotion, with the goal of understanding what processes govern the interaction between animals and their environment.<br>

Department: Biology

Research Focus: My lab studies animal movement, primarily in lizards. We focus on the biomechanical and physiological mechanisms underlying animal locomotion, with the goal of understanding what processes govern the interaction between animals and their environment. We use an integrative approach, which bridges the fields of functional morphology, ecophysiology, comparative biomechanics, and evolution to provide an essential, mechanistic- driven approach to understanding the physiological and ecomorphological mechanisms underlying both aquatic and terrestrial systems. We are also interested in how modern statistical tools (e.g. machine learning methods) can not only help detect and quantify coordination of limbs and muscles, but also classify discrete locomotor behaviors.

Potential Student Project: Biomechanics and functional morphology through growth and development.

This project is a two-part project that aims to address the question of how body shape locomotion change in a small species of lizard as they grow from hatchling to adult size. We will test the lizards’ ability to run and maneuver on different surfaces and take measurements of body and limb size and shape repeatedly, as the lizards grow.

The students involved in this project will work directly alongside me, learning cutting edge methods involved in biomechanics research, rigorous experimental design principles, as well as responsible animal husbandry and handling techniques. Depending on the interests of the students, they will also have the opportunity to gain exposure and proficiency in computer programming and modern statistical methods used to analyze the videos and the data that are extracted from them.

Attributes/skills/background sought in undergraduate:


  • Willingness to work with lizards and to learn appropriate husbandry techniques
  • Experience/reasonable proficiency using computers
  • Interest in learning about animal behavior
  • Strong work ethic
  • Enthusiastic

Experience in computer programming (e.g. R, Python, Matlab) would be particularly beneficial for the student, but is neither required nor expected.

Mentoring Plan: Students working with me on this project will gain direct hands-on experience working with lizards and will learn:

  • Appropriate and responsible animal husbandry techniques
  • Fundamentals of experimental design
  • How to use cutting-edge equipment, like high-speed video cameras
  • How to analyze videos for biomechanical studies

Depending on the student’s interest and level of commitment, they may have the opportunity to take this research project further, learning both classical and modern statistical methods to analyze the data and even getting involved in the writing up of a scientific paper.

In return, I expect my students to be responsible, enthusiastic, and willing to learn. My goal is to make this experience as valuable for students as possible. I will work directly with them to make this happen, but this requires hard work and commitment from the student as well.

Contact: 765-285-7785, CL 326K