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Head Honcho

Mark Denny

John B. & Jean DeNault Professor in Marine Sciences Biomechanics, Head Honcho

Mark received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. He studies the mechanical design of organisms with a particular interest in using the principles of physics and engineering to predict the survivorship of organisms in physically stressful environments and to understand the mechanisms of natural selection which have led to existing plants and animals.

Mark looks at the way in which intertidal organisms are designed and engineered. On the one hand, he is interested in figuring out the underlying factors that led to the ways in which mussels, crabs and kelp are designed. At the same time he keeps his eyes peeled for new solutions to basic engineering problems that nature has evolved. Wave-swept shores are an ideal place to conduct research of this type because, next to flight, they place the strictest constraints on how organisms are designed. Mark’s studies of limpets and mussels have determined how much wave pounding they can withstand. Using basic information on the average size of waves in an area, Mark can calculate what fraction of mussel beds will be ripped out in a given year, a figure that is very important for scientists who are studying the community structure of intertidal communities. He also is studying the way that waves interact with kelp in an attempt to understand how these flexible and seemingly fragile plants survive.