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My research addresses the general issue of how predator-prey interactions lead to the evolution of novel and unique biomaterials, with an emphasis on adhesion. The glue that I study is made by spiders, subfamily Cyrtarachninae, that have evolved the ability to capture moths. Their glue is a phase-changing adhesive, coupling low viscosity and rapid hardening. The result is the evolution of a predatory system, made possible by a unique bioadhesive, that defeats the usual defense of moths.

The research in our lab combines biochemical, biomechanical, and ecological techniques to delve into the bioadhesives produced by spiders. Currently based at Vassar College, we use techniques such as high-speed video, adhesive testing, and Raman spectroscopy. To understand and explain the dynamic spreading behavior between these glue and moths scales we are beginning to create numerical and computational models, pitting moth vs spider. Through collaboration with the American Natural History Museum, we are working to delve into the genomic basis for these unique glues. Attempting to test questions about spider evolution through the coupling of prey-specialization and glue material properties. My reseach is funded by the National Science Foundation (IOS-2031962).



Adhesion and Mechanical Characterization

​Combining high-speed videos of glue spreading and adhesion testing, we analyze the relationship between bioadhesive characteristics and adhesive strength on both natural and man-made surfaces.



Component Analysis of Bioadhesives

​The bioadhesives produced by Cyrtarachne spiders have unique chemical properties in the animal kingdom. With applications to synthetic adhesives, we search for chemical explaintions for their unique behavior.



Genomic and Proteomic Analysis

In collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, we are delving into the evolution of these unique spider glues, working to discover their genetic basis. We seek to learn how evolutionary pressures lead to the development of unique biomaterials


Mathematical Modeling

Numeric and Computational Models of Fluid Flow

The interaction between Cyrtarachne glues and moth surfaces leads to a dynamic spreading event, seemingly drying the glue. We seek to model and understand the forces involved in this phenomenon and how they relate to the evolution of this perfectly paired system.



Spider Hunting and In the Field Testing

The environmental conditions that allow organisms to strive allow us to both locate and better understand them. We seek to conduct biomechanical tests in the field to allow for the most biologically relevant tests. These include in-field adhesive tests and high-speed video of prey-spider interaction.

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Animal Husbandry

Raising and Feeding of Spiders and Moths

The raising of organisms in a lab is extremely difficult, especially for specialist species. We seek to determine the important environmental cues which allow Cyrtarachne to always create a web at optimal times. We also raise moths for our experiments and spider feeding!

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