Duncan J. Irschick

Photograph of First Last


Contact Info

Phone: 413-545-1696
Office: 205C Morrill III South


B.S., University of California, Davis, 1991

Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis, 1996


2000-2001 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California at Berkeley

1997 ñ 2000 Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cincinnati

Research Interests

Functional Morphology, Evolution, and Behavioral Ecology

Duncan J. Irschick is an integrative biologist and innovator interested in the evolution and ecology of animal athletics, and how biological form can inform synthetic design. His research on gecko adhesion, animal movement, and biomimicry has garnered international acclaim and many honors and awards.

He obtained a BS from the University of California at Davis, and a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, After postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati and UC Berkeley, he assume a Faculty position at Tulane University, and later moved in 2006 to a Faculty position at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Prof. Irschick has published over 115 papers on animal function and evolution, and has three patents. Many of his publications are in high-impact journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and Advanced Materials. He has been widely cited in the literature (3978 citations) and has an H-Index of 35.

Prof. Irschick has been invited to 64 talks for Universities all over the world. Most recently, he gave a TEDx talk at the Sorbonne in Paris in 2012 in the conference entitled "The New Age of Enlightenment". He is the Keynote speaker for Graduate student symposiums at the University of Utah, and Iowa State, and was the Hilgendorf Lecturer for the University of Tubingen in Germany, and the OCIB plenary lecturer for Carelton College in Canada. In 2012, he was also honored as a Fullbright Specialist by the Fullbright Foundation in 2012, and has served as a consultant for Pixar. In 2008, the Discovery Channel called him one of the “Best Brains in America”.

He has received generous funding from NIH, NSF, and private foundations, and has received substantial media attention in books, newspapers, the Internet media and on television. Examples include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNET.org, CNN, the Discovery Channel, MSNBC.com, Bloomberg.com, and FOXNEWS.com.

As an example of his work, Irschick has recently collaborated with Al Crosby from the Polymer Sciences Dept at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to apply evolutionary and anatomical principles towards the creation of a novel gecko-like adhesive. In February of 2012, they, along with Mike Bartlett, Dan King, and others, published a paper in the journal Advanced Materials that described GeckskinTM, a synthetic adhesive that mimics gecko feet. Geckskin is capable of holding more than 700 lbs (300 kg) on smooth surfaces (e.g., glass), yet is easily removable, and leaves no residue. Geckskin was hailed by CNN as one of the top five Scientific Breakthroughs of 2012 because of its ability to provide powerful, removable and reusable adhesion at large sizes.

Representative Publications

Irschick, D.J., Vitt, L.J., Zani, P., Losos, J.B. 1997. A comparison of evolutionary radiations in Mainland and West Indian Anolis lizards. Ecology, 78: 2191-2203.

Irschick, D.J., Jayne, B.C. 1999. Comparative three-dimensional kinematics of the hindlimb for high-speed bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion of lizards. Journal of Experimental Biology, 202: 1047-1065.

Irschick, D.J., Losos, J.B. 1999. Do lizards avoid habitats in which their performance is submaximal? The relationship between sprinting capabilities and structural habitat use in Caribbean anoles. The American Naturalist, 154: 293-305.

Irschick, D.J., Garland, T. Jr. 2001. Integrating function and ecology in studies of adaptation: Investigations of locomotor capacity as a model system. Annual Reviews of Ecology and Systematics, 32: 367-396.

Irschick, D.J., VanHooydonck, B., Herrel, A., Androsceu, A. 2003. Effects of loading and size on maximum power output and kinematics in geckos. Journal of Experimental Biology, 206: 3923-3934.

Ramos, M., Irschick, D.J.., Christenson, T. 2004. Overcoming an evolutionary conflict: Removal of a reproductive organ greatly enhances locomotor performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101: 4883-4887. (Featured in the book “Moths that drink elephant tears” by Matt Walker, NPR, Science News, the BBC, and many other media outlets).

Lailvaux, S., Herrel, A., VanHooydonck, B., Meyers, J., Irschick, D.J. 2004. Performance capacity, fighting tactics, and the evolution of life-stage male morphs in the green anole Lizard (Anolis carolinensis). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B., 271: 2501-2508.

Gillis, G. B, Bonvini, L, Irschick, D. J. 2009. Losing stability: tail loss and jumping in the arboreal lizard Anolis carolinensis. Journal of Experimental Biology, 212: 604-609. (Featured on The Daily Planet” by the Discovery Channel, Science Daily, The Toronto Star, Wired magazine.com, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [“Quirks and Quarks” show] and many other media outlets).

Herrel, A, Huyghe, K., Vanhooydonck, B., Backeljau T, Breugelmans, K., Grbac, I., Van Damme, R., Irschick, D. J. 2008. Rapid large scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with the exploitation of a novel dietary resource in the lizard Podarcis sicula. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105: 4792-4795. (Featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (“As It Happens”), National Geographic News, ScienceDaily, and many other media outlets, Faculty of 1000 selection; Featured on the Research Channel on “To What Degree? What Science is Telling us about Climate Change”; Featured in “The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution” by Carl Zimmer).

Bartlett, M., Croll, A. B., King, D. R., Irschick, D. J*, Crosby AJ. 2012. Looking Beyond Fibrillar Features to Scale Gecko-Like Adhesion. Advanced Materials (IF=13.9, Cover), 24: 1078-1083. (*Irschick co-corresponding author) (Featured in The Daily Mail, Wired Magazine, SmartPlanet.com, The New Zealand Herald, New Scientist.com, NPR, Yahoo!, Voice of America, The Daily Planet, CNET.com, WTOP Radio, Daily KOS, Campbell Biology textbook, 10th Edition, and many other outlets).