As scientists we generally look for intriguing patterns in nature and try to explain them. Our approach is to build simple models with the help of equations and experiments in the lab. We are currently focusing on the mysterious lives of zooplankton, tiny animals drifting in the ocean.

For tiny creatures the water around them feels viscous and doesn’t flow easily (similar to what we’d experience in a bath of honey!). Despite this challenge, zooplankton like copepods can swim freely. They perform an elegant dance by moving their arms and legs out of sync. If they moved in sync they wouldn’t make any progress (see video)!

We are learning about other curious adaptations in nature. We are formulating new models and building prototype robots to test the theories. Hawaii is home to unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems which are great sources of inspiration for future research.