Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Science of Sea Lions: UNO to Host Seminar on the Animals’ High-Performance Moves

Megan LeftwichEver watch a sea lion glide through water, turning and flipping with effortless speed and stops?

Megan Leftwich, assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science, has spent countless hours studying the way the California sea lion moves, searching for information about how the structure of its foreflippers contributes to its unusual hydrodynamics.

On Jan. 20, Leftwich will visit University of New Orleans to share some of her work and findings during a seminar sponsored by the University of New Orleans’s College of Engineering and Department of Physics. The talk will be held at 3 p.m. in the UNO Engineering Auditorium, EN 101. It is free and open to the public.

Leftwich and other George Washington researchers have used digital cameras to collect hours of high-definition footage of sea lions in motion at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC. Their work has also led them to create a robotic sea lion foreflipper that can be programmed to move like a real California sea lion. Leftwich’s team is using the robotic flipper to study the movements in a controlled laboratory setting.

“We want to measure how the water reacts to the sea lion flipper, something that’s very hard to figure out using live sea lions, mostly due to their size and the need for highly specialized equipment,” Leftwich wrote in an article published by The Conversation.

Eventually, she said, the techniques they discover might be incorporated into an engineered underwater vehicle used to search underwater mines, shipwrecks or caves.