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Torch

Faculty and Department

  • Faculty of Science and Engineering
  • School of Natural Sciences

Qualifications

  • MGeol (University of Leeds)
  • PhD (University of Bristol)

Summary

I got into science via Palaeontology, because I was always interested in how and why evolution changes the shapes of animals over time. I studied Geology as an undergraduate, but during my PhD on biomechanical finite element validation, I realised that palaeontology could benefit from more data about modern animals, and started to drift towards the Biological Sciences; it’s also much easier to study living dinosaurs (birds) than it is to study extinct ones! I joined the University of Hull as a lecturer in Zoology in 2019, albeit one with a disproportionately high number of rocks in their office.

I am the Programme Director for the Zoology degree, and module leader for Vertebrate Zoology (core for Zoology and Biology students, and optional for Marine Biologists). For final year Independent Research Project students, I offer projects investigating aspects of animal form and function. Depending on the project this may include learning geometric morphometrics methods or ways of measuring functional performance from skeletons or 3D computer models.

Recent outputs

View more outputs

Journal Article

Diet of Mesozoic toothed birds (Longipterygidae) inferred from quantitative analysis of extant avian diet proxies

Miller, C., Pittman, M., Wang, X., Zheng, X., & Bright, J. A. (2022). Diet of Mesozoic toothed birds (Longipterygidae) inferred from quantitative analysis of extant avian diet proxies. BMC biology, 20(1), Article 101. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-022-01294-3

Global biogeographic patterns of avian morphological diversity

Hughes, E. C., Edwards, D. P., Bright, J. A., Capp, E. J., Cooney, C. R., Varley, Z. K., & Thomas, G. H. (2022). Global biogeographic patterns of avian morphological diversity. Ecology letters, 25(3), 598-610. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13905

Craniofacial development illuminates the evolution of nightbirds (Strisores)

Navalón, G., Nebreda, S. M., Bright, J. A., Fabbri, M., Benson, R. B. J., Bhullar, B. A., …Rayfield, E. J. (2021). Craniofacial development illuminates the evolution of nightbirds (Strisores). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1948), Article 20210181. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0181

The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation

Chira, A. M., Cooney, C. R., Bright, J. A., Capp, E. J., Hughes, E. C., Moody, C. J., …Thomas, G. H. (2020). The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1938), Article 20201585. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1585

The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation: Competition and trait macroevolution

Chira, A. M., Cooney, C. R., Bright, J. A., Capp, E. J., Hughes, E. C., Moody, C. J., …Thomas, G. H. (2020). The signature of competition in ecomorphological traits across the avian radiation: Competition and trait macroevolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1938), Article 20201585. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1585

Research interests

I am broadly interested in the relationship between skeletal form and function throughout evolution, and the extent to which form can be used to predict function (or not…) in the feeding structures of extant and extinct animals. I am also interested in how the skeleton is constrained by non-functional factors, like evolutionary or developmental history. I look at these questions using birds as a study group, but because I’m probably more interested in the overarching themes than I am in the birds themselves (gasp!), I often find myself tinkering around in other animal groups where we could use the same computational methods to investigate a really interesting skeletal structure or evolutionary question. In particular, I use techniques like geometric morphometrics and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to try to understand form and function, respectively. An important aspect of this is ground-truthing finite element models with experimental bone strain and material properties data. For this, I team up with the Department of Engineering to conduct validation studies.

Postgraduate supervision

I would happily work with PhD students interested in bird functional or morphological evolution, and/or finite element validation, and am currently supervising students working on bird cranial kinesis (Amber Wagstaffe) and the dietary ecology of fossil birds (Case Miller – HKU). I do not currently have funding for new projects, but would be keen to talk to prospective students about ways to work together to get funding for project ideas that they have.

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