The Graduate Program in

Duncan Irschick

Professor of Biology

B.S., University of California, Davis, 1991
Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis, 1996

Research Interests

I am an integrative biologist interested in the evolution and ecology of animal performance. Animal performance traits have fascinated humans for generations, but there is still a great deal we don't know about why and how animals can perform their amazing feats, such as jumping, running, and biting. Why can some animals run so fast? How do lizards climb walls? Why are some animals so much stronger than humans? Whereas most research on animal performance has focused on the mechanistic underpinnings of performance (the "how"), My research explicitly examines performance traits in an evolutionary and ecological context. In this way, I examine not just the "how" of animal performance, but also the "why".

The research in my laboratory addresses the interface among organismal design, function, and ecology. Broadly, I am interested in the evolution of complex functional systems in all its facets. My research integrates microevolutionary and macroevolutionary approaches, and applies both experimental and descriptive approaches to understand the causes of, and ultimately the consequences of this diversity. Some of the methods employed in my lab include: phylogenetic comparative methods, ecological mark-recapture techniques, 2-D and 3-D kinematic analysis, analysis of kinetics (force dynamics), and analyses of hormones and morphology. While much of my research has focused on lizards as a model system, I also conduct studies with many other taxa, such as spiders, frogs, snakes, ungulates, salamanders, and mice, among others.