Associate Professor of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology
Office: MCZ 2; Concord Field Station
Lab Website: http://www.oeb.harvard.edu/faculty/combes/Site_2
My research strives to link the worlds of field-based insect flight ecology with lab-based insect flight mechanics to understand the physical foundation of diverse, natural flight behaviors. I focus on flight performance at the level of the whole organism, asking both how flapping wings interact physically with the fluid surrounding them, as well as how insects use other appendages to control the way forces act upon the body. I have developed systems in which it is possible to study freely flying insects responding to natural stimuli in a manner that is both repeatable and quantifiable, working with wild insects in their natural habitats whenever possible. I draw on a wide variety of experimental and theoretical techniques from both biology and engineering to answer questions at the interface of flight biomechanics and behavioral ecology.
Combes, S.A., Rundle, D.E., Iwsaki, J.M. and Crall, J.D. (2012). Linking biomechanics and ecology through predator-prey interactions: Flight performance of dragonflies and their prey. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 903-913.
Donoughe, S., Crall, J.D., Merz, R.A. and Combes, S.A. (2011). Resilin in dragonfly and damselfly wings and its implications for wing flexibility. Journal of Morphology 272(12): 1409-1421.
Combes, S.A. (2010). Materials, structure, and dynamics of insect wings as bioinspiration for MAVs. In Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering, Vol. 7 (Vehicle Design). John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex, UK. 10 pp.
Combes, S.A., Crall, J.D. and Mukherjee, S. (2010). Dynamics of animal movement in an ecological context: dragonfly wing damage reduces flight performance and predation success. Biology Letters 6(3): 426-429.
Combes, S.A. and Dudley, R. (2009). Turbulence-driven instabilities limit insect flight performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(22): 9105-9108.
Shang, J.K., Combes, S.A., Finio, B.M. and Wood, R.J. (2009). Artificial insect wings of diverse morphology for flapping-wing micro air vehicles. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 4(3): 036002, 6 pp.
Combes, S.A. and Daniel, T.L. (2003). Flexural stiffness in insect wings. I. Scaling and the influence of wing venation. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(17): 2979-2987.
Combes, S.A. and Daniel, T.L. (2003). Flexural stiffness in insect wings. II. Spatial distribution and dynamic wing bending. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(17): 2989-2997.
Combes, S.A. and Daniel, T.L. (2003). Into thin air: Contributions of aerodynamic and inertial-elastic forces to wing bending in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(17): 2999-3006.