Michael Belcher

Project Name:

How Big and Small Animals Swim, Fly, and Pump Fluids

Michael Belcher will work with UNC Chapel Hill’ Mathematics Department to research how organisms interact with fluids. Integrating aerodynamics (the study of gases in motion) and hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in motion), he will study various transport mechanisms including swimming, flying or pumping in organisms of different sizes. Fluid behavior depends on scaling effects that determine what methods of locomotion and pumping will be viable for certain organisms. As some organisms increase in size, the methods of moving or moving through the fluid may change. Studying fluid properties such as velocity, pressure, density and temperature, and equations of fluid motion allows researchers to predict what types of mechanisms work for organisms of a particular size. Collaborating with Dr. Minion, Mr. Belcher will have the opportunity to use models and numerical simulations to better understand the fluid dynamic forces experienced by organisms. These model systems include: flight adaptations in the smallest flying insects, such as thrips and parasitoid wasps, and the mechanism of blood pumping in the embryonic and vertebrate hearts. He will also collaborate with Dr. Miller to investigate regime changes in the fluid dynamic environment of organisms as they grow or shrink in size over time.

From School:

Hillside New Tech High School


Durham Public Schools


Dr. Michael Minion and Dr. Laura Miller, UNC Chapel Hill


Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI)

Published in 2012.