Welcome to the Physical Ecology Group at the University of Lincoln
Although organisms obey the same physical laws as inanimate objects the evolutionary implications of these laws are often neglected. Physical factors influence the fitness value of traits and play an important role in the course of evolution. These are the areas of investigation that interest us.
Granular materials are complicated beasts. When packed, forces between grains create a network (above) that shifts as force is applied. And, while grains can stick and resist that force, push a little further and they may slip and avalanche. A new study of this stick-slip behavior monitors disks similar to those above by listening for changes leading up to the slip. Researchers found that vibrations inside a granular material changed measurably before the grains slipped. The scientists hope this will one day allow for monitoring of landslide and avalanche-prone areas. While the changes are not enough to definitively predict when a slide will occur, they may provide valuable estimates of when one is likely. (Research credit: T. Brzinski and K. Daniels; image credit: OIST, source; via J. Ouellette)