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Bioinspired Ocean Exploration

John Dabiri, California Institute of Technology

The ocean remains largely impenetrable to human observation, especially in comparison to our ability to view the inner workings of cells or peer deep into space. Efforts toward high-resolution ocean measurement have primarily focused on interrogating the ocean with increasing numbers of surface and submarine vehicles. The extent to which this approach can scale is fundamentally limited by the energetic requirements of propulsion—a challenge that was solved millions of years ago by swimming zooplankton. But how do they do it? This talk will describe lab and field experiments focused on understanding the fluid mechanics of efficient locomotion by jellyfish, the most energy-efficient of all animal swimmers. That knowledge is leveraged to develop bio-inspired robotic systems with the potential to enable exploration of the entire ocean. Such data can inform longstanding questions regarding the past, present, and future of the ocean.



John Dabiri is the Centennial Chair Professor at Caltech, with appointments in the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories (GALCIT) and Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on unsteady fluid mechanics and flow physics, with particular emphasis on topics relevant to biology, energy, and the environment. Current interests include biological fluid dynamics in the ocean, next-generation wind energy, and development of new experimental methods. Dabiri is a MacArthur Fellow and Fellow of the American Physical Society. Other honors include the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award. He is the Chair of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics.