The DAWNDINOS research team works within the Structure & Motion Lab at the Royal Veterinary College and is based at its Hertfordshire campus. The SML addresses key questions about how living and extinct animals are structured, how they move, how movement is controlled and what limits performance.

John Hutchinson

John Hutchinson_2John is a biologist originally from the USA who now resides in the UK as a dual citizen, and a Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics at The Royal Veterinary College. He received his BS degree in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin in 1993, then obtained his PhD in Integrative Biology at the University of California with Kevin Padian in 2001, and rounded out his training with a two-year National Science Foundation bioinformatics Post Doc at the Biomechanical Engineering Division of Stanford University with Scott Delp. John started at the RVC as a Lecturer in Evolutionary Biomechanics in 2003 in the Department of Veterinary Basic Sciences and was promoted to Reader in 2008, then Professor in 2011.

His interests are in the evolutionary biomechanics of locomotion, especially in large terrestrial vertebrates. He’s studied birds, extinct dinosaurs and their relatives, elephants, and crocodiles and looks at how locomotion works in individual species in order to reconstruct how locomotion has evolved across vast phylogenetic spans. In particular he’s interested in how body size influences locomotor abilities and how anatomy and function are related (or not). John has worked with a wide range of land vertebrates, and uses as many techniques as his team can muster. Dinosaurs (including birds), elephants, crocodiles, early tetrapods and more species have been favourite subjects of his research.

John is an Associate Editor for Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences),  the new open access journal PeerJ, and the ISRN Evolutionary Biology journal. From 2012-2013 he was a Senior Research Fellow funded by the Royal Society Leverhulme Trust. He won the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology’s Romer Prize (2000), and was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society and Society of Biology, and was awarded the Charles Darwin lecture at the British Science Festival in 2012 as well as the RCVS Share Jones Lecture in Veterinary Anatomy in 2011. 

Delyle Polet

Delyle has been interested in comparative biomechanics since his first undergraduate year in interdisciplinary science at the University of Alberta. Pursuing a double major in Physics and Biology, he completed research in fluid mechanics with Prof. Bruce Sutherland, and insect microstructures for efficient drop shedding with Profs. Morris Flynn and Felix Sperling.

Graduating cum laude in 2013, Delyle moved to the University of Calgary and completed a MSc in Mechanical Engineering under Prof. David Rival, studying the fluid dynamics of perching manoeuvres in birds. He then gained his PhD in Evolutionary Biology with Profs. Jessica Theodor and John Bertram in 2020. With a thesis on Models of Energetically Optimal Locomotion in Cursorial Mammals, he was looking for ways to expand his modelling capabilities before joining DAWNDINOS in 2021.

Aside from his passion for biomechanics, Delyle is a jazz musician, devoted husband, and dedicated father of 3 wonderful children.

 Louise Kermode

Louise is the research administrator working on the ERC funded DAWNDINOS project and provides project management to support the research team on a wide range of activities. She is responsible for reporting on  project progress to the European Research Council, organising science outreach events and maintaining the team’s website. Louise has a background in project management and knowledge transfer within a research environment having previously worked in a similar capacity in the RVC‘s Pathobiology and Population Sciences dept. Louise has a BSc and Master’s degree in human & animal nutrition from Kings College, London.

Oliver Demuth

Oliver is a scientific illustrator and palaeobiologist. During his undergraduate studies in Scientific Visualization at the Zurich University of the Arts, his passion for palaeontology led him to pursue internships in the lab of Dr. David Evans at the Royal Ontario Musuem in Toronto, Canada and the lab of Dr. Octávio Mateus in Lourinhã, Portugal. From these experiences, Oliver developed a special interest in biomechanics and 3D computational modelling.

After obtaining his BA in Design from Zurich in 2017, he joined the Nyakatura Lab at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin as a research fellow, working on limb biomechanics of extant caimans during locomotion. He completed a MSc in Palaeobiology in 2019 at the University of Bristol, where he was involved in a research project on the limb biomechanics of the stem-archosaur Euparkeria under the supervision of Prof Emily Rayfield and Prof John Hutchinson.

As a scientific illustrator Oliver has published illustrations in research articles and the international press and participated with his paintings and illustrations in several exhibitions in Europe and North America.

His research interests lie on novel three-dimensional computational modelling techniques to reconstruct deformed and partially preserved specimens, as well as musculoskeletal modelling of extinct and extant archosaurs, and the study of their biomechanics and locomotion.

In addition to his art and research Oliver enjoys palaeontological fieldwork. He joined the Royal Ontario Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the last few years for their combined field excavations, the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project, helping uncovering 77 million year old dinosaur remains in the Oldman Formation.

Philip Morris

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Phil has a diverse research background including archaeology, palaeontology, virtual anatomy and biomechanics, and enjoys exploring all aspects of the function and evolution of skeletal anatomy.

This has taken him from the bioanthropological examination of bones from Viking burials to the virtual analysis of rodent jaws. Phil settled into a firm fascination in anatomy and biomechanics whilst studying the evolution of rodent jaw morphology during his PhD at the Hull York Medical School.

After successfully completing his doctorate, he moved to the University of South Florida to undertake a postdoctoral research project on the anatomy and biomechanics of cranial kinesis in the jaw apparatus of extant and fossil birds.

3D visualisation and virtual anatomy have played a key role in much of Phil’s research, and he’s a keen advocate for the use of virtual reconstructions of anatomy and 3D printing as methods for outreach, teaching and research.

James Charles

James has a range of research interests including functional anatomy, biomechanical modelling, biplane radiography and medical imaging which have been put to use throughout his previous academic positions.

After receiving a BSc in Anatomy and Human Biology from the University of Liverpool and an MSc in Palaeoanthropology from the University of Sheffield, James completed his PhD at the Royal Veterinary College in 2016, working with John to develop, optimise and validate a novel musculoskeletal model and simulation of trotting locomotion in the mouse hindlimb. This work revealed interesting anatomical specialisations and functions within the mouse musculoskeletal system, which is largely under-studied given the heavy use of the mouse as a model species for many human neuromuscular disorders.

Wanting to combine these modelling skills with his interests in human functional anatomy, James then spent 18 months as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, where he worked to develop a framework for creating subject-specific human lower limb models. These bespoke models included individualised bones, muscle attachments and muscle properties from MRI and diffusion tensor imaging, as well as precise knee joint bone motions from biplane radiography. This work showed that more generic models are unlikely to truly replicate in vivo knee ligament dynamics, which highlights the need for personalised models in both clinical and non-clinical contexts.

Subsequently, James then moved back to the University of Liverpool for another Postdoctoral position, where he worked with Karl Bates, Kris D’Aout and Peter Falkingham to use this subject-specific modelling framework to predict intra-population variations in muscle dynamics and metabolic cost during walking over compliant and non-compliant surfaces. These data will inform how the morphologies of various hominin species within the fossil record are inferred in regards to their potential capabilities of bipedal walking over energetically expensive terrains.

François Clarac

François defended his PhD in Paris under the supervision of Dr. Vivian de Buffrénil (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle) and Prof. Jorge Cubo (Sorbonne Université). The purpose of his PhD thesis was to decipher the potential adaptive role(s) of the dermal bone ornamentation in the evolution of the crocodylian lineage; a topic of investigation which is at the crossroad of various scientific fields: palaeontology, biomechanics, physiology and evolutionary biology. To fulfil objectives, François developed a multidisciplinary approach that was based on: 3D-bone modelling, finite element analyses, phylogenetic comparative analyses, histology, infrared thermography and ethology. The main outcome of the work was the discovery of the implication of the crocodylian dermal skeleton vascularisation in heat transfer: a function which turned out to be an adaptation to the ectothermic amphibious sit-and-wait lifestyle at the Triassic to Jurassic boundary (about 200 million years ago).

François then continued with two consecutive post-doctoral positions at Uppsala University in Sophie Sanchez’s team. The scope of these years of investigation was oriented toward the understanding of the water to land transition in the early tetrapods. The research was focused both on the early-tetrapod ecophysiological adaptations to land and on the bone mechanical changes which are related to the fin-to-limb transition. All the raw data were acquired via synchrotron scans which François and Sophie Sanchez obtained through beam time applications at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble, France) in collaboration with Dr. Paul Tafforeau (ESRF) and Dr. Alexandra Quilhac (Sorbonne Université). After these synchrotron scan sessions, François modelled a large sample of extant and extinct vertebrate specimens in three dimensions. He then extracted and quantified the anatomical traits of interest in order to perform comparisons using phylogenetic comparative analyses and also developed a cutting-edge finite element method which revealed unprecedented results on the tetrapodomorph limb bones biomechanics.

François joined John Hutchinson’s Dawndinos ERC project on the 27th of September 2021 to determine the locomotion of early representative species of the crocodylian lineage such as the sphenosuchids. His contribution to this project will rely on a background in both the biomechanics of the limb bones and the evolution of the crocodylian lineage.