Facilities

The Patek Lab uses a number of exciting facilities and equipment for its research. These tools allow us to delve even deeper into the workings of marine organisms and explore how they interact with their environment on big and small scales.

The Patek Lab aquarium, where we house our research animals

The most important of our facilities is the aquarium room, where we can house both tropical and temperate marine organisms. The tanks pictured above contain several species of mantis shrimp, including G. smithii (below), a colorful smasher that enjoys eating crabs. 

One focus of research in our lab is fast animal movements- and mantis shrimp are among the fastest. In order to see what happens when they strike a snail's shell, we use a high speed video camera that can shoot video at up to 400,000 frames per second. This camera (right) gives us a split- second veiw of the workings of a mantis shrimp strike or a trap- jaw ant jump.

With high speed video we are able to quantify fast animal movements. The next questions is how do animals generate such speed, especially in water? Answers to this question are not easy to come by, but part of the solution lies in the structure of the animal's body. The material properties of a mantis shrimp exoskeleton, for example, allow it to store elastic energy like a spring. We can examine these properties using our Instron, a materials testing machine (below, left). 

We also have a dissecting microscope (above) which we use to examine how minute anatomical structures contribute to an animals' ability to move and produce sound.

The Patek Lab is also interested in how animals communicate acoustically underwater. To study this, we use an acoustic chamber (below); a high tech room that prevents outside noise from entering.

In addition to the diverse pieces of equipment listed above, we have force sensors to examine hard- hitting mantis shrimp strikes and a hydrophone to listen in on underwater communication. An underlying theme of research in this lab is evolution, and one of the tools we use to tease out how fast movements evolved is our Nikon d300, a D-SLR camera that takes high quality macro photos for geometric morphometric analysis.

Of course, we especially love our research animals, like this shy mantis shrimp peeking out of his burrow.