Lights, Camera, Axolotl: A Behavioral Study

Dr. Henry Astley and Kaelyn Gamel


In the Astley lab, our primary focus is in the field of biomechanics, where we integrate animal biomechanics and morphological features. Specifically, this project transpires to study salamander behavior and how the axolotl interacts with its environment during underwater walking.  The neotenic salamander displays variable locomotive behaviors while interacting with the varying bottom substrate. Tests will be attained on different experimental substrates such as rocks, sticks, sand, other debris. Dependent on the length of availability of the mentee,  potential robotic design can be incorporated within the study.

Primary Goals:

1) Quantify and understand locomotive behaviors of the Ambystoma Mexicanum(Axolotl) on different substrate.

2) Design an interchangeable robot that test different morphological features on varying substrates

You will gain skills and exposure in one or more of the following (No prior knowledge needed):

  • Animal handling: axolotls and other amphibians.
  • Experimental setup: 3D design, 3D printing, and simple robotic circuits.
  • Integrating videography and Computer Science(Matlab) to digitizing and solve for inverse dynamics.
  •  A variety of qualitative and quantitative questions regarding comparative evolution and comparative biomechanics.
  • Data and Statistical analysis.
  • Weekly chances to meet with Astley lab to delineating published scientific papers.
  • Involvement in the biological community outside of the university such as opportunities to travel to scientific conferences and present scientific data.

Click here for other information about Dr. Astley’s lab.